The Music We Listen to Actually Drives Evolution in a Surprising Number of Ways
We know music and emotion are connected, but neuroscience tells us why music is such an integral part of what makes us human.
The various milestones of my life are best explained by the soundtrack I was rocking to at the time. In fact, my growth as a person can be documented in great detail by exactly what artist resonated with me at which juncture. Joni Mitchell's and Bob Dylan’s thoughtful lyrics in college, recently the meandering strains of John Coltrane’s saxophone, the pop fun of Tennis, and the aching beauty of Sufjan Stevens, or the soothing comfort of the Beatles or Barbra Streisand, which immediately recall my childhood, each bringing up an emotion and saying, "This is who I am right now."
Science has a number of different takes on what attracts us to certain melodies and chords, and why we need music at all. A recent post on BBC attempts to answer some of these questions, and explains that singing and dancing in groups gives us a strong evolutionary advantage.
Neuroscience tells us why music is such an integral part of what makes us human.
According to neuroscience, the article says, dancing can blur our sense of separateness. This may be why when I’m seeing a live concert, my brain feels like it’s firing off billions of dopamine chemicals (because it is). There is something about a group experience, a we’re-all-in-this-together feeling, that makes me feel less like an individual person and more like part of a community — like there is something bigger than myself. Apparently listening to a song that is "chill-inducing" can lead to us to acting more altruistically, also, which makes sense. If music or dancing makes us feel a part of a bigger group, we want to help that group or tribe.
On the other hand, if you want to outsmart evolution's invisible hand, here's how:
On a monetary level, that may be why we all swoon at the Sarah McLachlan "Angel" puppy commercials, or donate to charity concerts. But in a bigger way, it could indicate why music that addresses our cultural problems resonates as much as it does, from Buffalo Springfield’s "For What it’s Worth" and Marvin Gaye’s "What’s Goin’ On" to the more recent social commentary of Kendrick Lamar.
We feel close to artists who talk about the world we live in, because through their music and lyrics we connect to the very group/society they are observing; they show us that we are all a part of the same thing. Feeling connected, part of a tribe, and like we are contributing to a tribe, are basic and primal human emotions that are absolutely necessary to our survival. To quote an oft-covered Rihanna song, "Please don’t stop the music."
PHOTO CREDIT: iStock
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
Great again? Why America stopped looking forward to the future
- Income inequality is dividing Americans.
- Wages haven't risen in 30 years, while prices for housing, schools, and basic goods has.
- Canny (and uncanny) politicians have learned how to milk the politics of fear by comparing the present to the past.
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