musical perception : are we all experts?

Lecture by Barbara Tillmann at the Spring Conferences of the University of Lille March 2018

Research on musical perception shows that even non-musician listeners become sensitive to the regularities of the musical system by simply exposing themselves to musical pieces in everyday life. This musical knowledge is very elaborate; it influences the perception of sounds and allows the understanding of musical structures. On the other hand, for some people, music makes no sense: they are unable to recognize a familiar song without words as well as to detect a wrong note or when someone sings wrong (including themselves). These people have "congenital amusement", a musical deficit without other cognitive or auditory deficits. Studying how the brain treats music (in its normal and deficit functioning) has become the focus of a growing body of research that, together with research studying language perception, contributes to our understanding of how the brain works. Barbara Tillmann is a research director at the CNRS and leads the "auditory cognition and psychoacoustic cognition" team at the Lyon neuroscience research centre. After completing her thesis at the University of Burgundy, she went on a post doctoral internship in the United States before returning to Lyon. She is committed to deciphering the cognitive and neural mechanisms that allow the human brain to perceive music. She is particularly interested in the phenomena of congenital amusement, which affect about 4% of the population. It has also helped to reveal the beneficial role of music in the treatment of certain cognitive disorders (dyslexia, dysphasia). She has participated in more than 120 publications in international journals of the highest level such as Nature, Journal of Neuroscience, Neuropsychology. She is the author of a book and has written chapters in 21 widely distributed books. Remarkably, she won the bronze and silver medals from the CNRS in 2004 and 2016 respectively. She collaborates with many laboratories and in particular with the University of Sydney where she is very involved in research themes and teaching.

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