“The Superpowers of Music”, on Arte: behind the scenes of the “neural symphony”


A baby listening to the Rolling String Quartet during an experiment by Professor Emmanuel Bigand, who studies the effects of music on the brain.


Brahms and Mick Jagger competitors of Superman and Batman? Jacques Mitsch poses from the outset the problematic of his documentary on music, “a superpower within everyone’s reach”. And for everyone, from the fetus to Alzheimer’s patients.

It’s with the iconic Rolling Stones track – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – in the background music that this documentary reveals the “amazing scientific experiments” conducted with music.

In Dijon, the soprano Delphine Ribemont-Lambert sings in the ear of very premature babies to improve their physiological state. In Barcelona, ​​a team of gynecologists from the Marques Institute has created intravaginal loudspeakers to allow fetuses to listen to music from the sixth month of pregnancy. In Leipzig, a fitness machine uses the doping effects of music to treat certain addictions. In Canada, speed dating sessions with music are held, which highlight its influence on the emotions of the participants. In Caen, musical workshops for Alzheimer’s patients allow them to learn new pieces, those who generally only remember those from their childhood.

“Positive effect on development”

When listening to music, neurons “coordinate like the instrumentalists of a large orchestra”says Professor Emmanuel Bigand, initiator of the documentary with his book The Neuronal Symphony. Why music is essential to the brain (HumenSciences, 2020).

Himself a cellist – he always travels with his instrument to play the Stones in classical mode to his “patients” – this cognitive psychology specialist at the University of Burgundy recommends introducing into school programs “a musical practice of two hours a week”which, according to him, would have “a positive effect on cognitive development and academic success”.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers “Music causes a neural symphony in the brain”

Frédérique Thiebault, a teacher in Dijon, plays the accordion to her kindergarten students, each of whom is entitled to “a melody for his first name”. The LiveLab in Hamilton, Canada, works on cases of children who have motor problems: “When we use a metronome to allow them to type in rhythm, it helps their motor system to work better. »

Analysis : Article reserved for our subscribers When music is good… for the brain

In Lyon, we are studying a little-known phenomenon, amusia. A neurological anomaly that affects people who are unable to listen to music… Among these musically handicapped people: the President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt, the writer Vladimir Nabokov or Che Guevara. Researchers at the Neuroscience Research Center have called on people who sing out of tune to come…sing – with detectors on their skulls. Superpower or not, “Music is one of the characteristics that define our humanity”, summarizes Professor Robert Zatorre, at McGill University in Montreal.

The superpowers of music, documentary by Jacques Mitsch (Fr., 2022, 53 min). On Arte.tv until May 30.


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