Neuroprospecting: Mining cultures for neuro-behavioural data
Posted by Paul Mason on October 5, 2008
Neuroprospecting: pursuit of culture-specific behaviours for neuroscience: the process of searching and extracting potential neuro-behavioural data from cultures.
Group Sari Bunuan Macan Andaleh play Gendang Tambuah in a procession
Photo: Paul Mason
This time last year, I was in the field documenting some festivities held at The End of Fasting in the highlands of West Sumatra. The ceremonies I documented were inherently tied to tradition, heritage, local economy, history, religion, social changes, education, available materials, collective memory, creativity and political influences to name just a few factors. Through my observations, discussions with research collaborators (Pak Indra Utama, Bu Ernida Kadir and Pak Fadil from the STSI Padang Panjang), as well as my direct participation in the events, I have been able to, over time, come to an understanding of how the expression of the music and dance in the performances embodies encultured ways of feeling, moving and thinking.
The different ways in which people interact with music as a result of cultural entrainment offers neuroscience beautiful context-sensitive non-invasive techniques to understand the human brain. Music and Dance are both non-verbal human activities and one can be used to probe the other. Through my own fieldwork, I have found that there is often no need to set up specific ‘stimulus-response’ experiments, but that the various cultures of the world have already developed their own context-sensitive experimental findings through the expression of music and dance. I have no doubt that collaborative research between neuroscientists, anthropologists, and the various musicians and dancers of the world will offer us deeper insights into the workings of the human brain!