University Neuroscientist Explores Sound and its Effect on the Brain in Public Talk

Matt Di Miceli profile
Dr Matt Di Miceli

A neuroscientist from the University of Worcester will be looking at the science behind how we hear sound and its impact on the brain and our emotions at a free talk next week.

Dr Matt Di Miceli, Lecturer in Biomedical Science, who specialises in neuroscience and electrophysiology, will be giving a free talk at The Hive, titled ‘Is This Music to my Ears?’, on Thursday (May 16), 7pm-8.30pm.

Dr Di Miceli said: “Want to know why music is pleasurable? This is a chance to get a better understanding of how your own brain is processing information about sounds and understanding what’s the link between this; how music can make me happier. We’re also going to have a few interactive experiments.”

Alongside the scientific process behind hearing - how sound is created, how it travels through the ear and how it is then relayed to the brain - Dr Di Miceli will explain the difference in the range of pitch at which different animals and humans can hear sounds. He will also talk about volume of sound and how what we hear can change over time, for example as we get older. The talk will involve some interactive elements, for example to test people’s ability to hear pitch.

Dr Di Miceli will also look at how people’s hearing can be affected by their experiences of being exposed to loud noise over a long period of time, such as soldiers in war zones or a loud working environment, and the resulting conditions such as tinnitus and sound-triggered epilepsy.

A key aspect of the talk will be on how music can trigger emotion or pleasure and whether sound therapy could be used to alleviate stress, anxiety, pain or memory impairments.

“The electrical signals to the brain created from sound travel to a specific area called the auditory cortex,” said Dr Di Miceli. “This is part of a wider region of the brain that is also processing emotions. When we hear music your brain will release dopamine and dopamine is always linked to reward; it’s a sensation of pleasure.

“Music we know is triggering this feeling of reward and pleasure so it makes you feel good. We know that if you put someone in a brain scan, an MRI scan, it will actually activate the regions associated with emotions as well.

“This is an area of growing interest for scientists. In 1948 the first article was published on the relationship of music to the brain. Around 20 years ago there was an explosion in the number of academic publications. Right now it’s peaking at around 600 publications per year. So there is a lot of interest in how sound can be used to alleviate some symptoms for certain conditions.”

Places must be booked in advance through The Hive website.