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The social neuroscience of music: Understanding the social brain through human song.

, Jean Decety, Ilanit Gordon

Abstract: During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen that people can adapt quickly to ensure that their social needs are met after being forced to isolate and socially distance. Many individuals turned immediately to music, as evidenced by people singing from balconies, watching live concerts on social media, and group singing online. In this article, we show how these musical adaptations can be understood through the latest advances in the social neuroscience of music-an area that, to date, has been largely overlooked. By streamlining and synthesizing prior theory and research, we introduce a model of the brain that sheds light on the social functions and brain mechanisms that underlie the musical adaptations used for human connection. We highlight the role of oxytocin and the neurocircuitry associated with reward, stress, and the immune system. We show that the social brain networks implicated in music production (in contrast to music listening) overlap with the networks in the brain implicated in the social processes of human cognition-mentalization, empathy, and synchrony-all of which are components of herding; moreover, these components have evolved for social affiliation and connectedness. We conclude that the COVID-19 pandemic could be a starting point for an improved understanding of the relationship between music and the social brain, and we outline goals for future research in the social neuroscience of music. In a time when people across the globe have been unable to meet in person, they have found a way to meet in the music. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
Keywords: adaptations / brain / music / pandemic / COVID / singing / neuroscience / stress / functions / model

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