Music on the Brain

Your Brain on Music (start time: 6:18): Most people love music, whether it’s opera music, jazz, rock-n-roll, gospel, nursery rhymes or another genre. Whether you’re a trained professional or someone who just likes to sing in the shower or listen to your favorite playlists, you’ve likely felt the power of music in shaping your thoughts, feelings and behavior. But how?
Many scientists have been researching how music affects the human brain, and how music can help treat many neurological and other disorders. Today, host Susan Moran interviews Indre  Viskontas, a cognitive neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology at the University of San Francisco. She’s also a classically trained opera singer and a director. Her 2019 book is How Music Can Make You Better.  And Dr. Viskontas also directs communications for the Sound Health Network, an initiative that promotes research and public awareness of the impact of music on health and well-being. She also hosts a podcast called Inquiring Minds.

Host, Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Shannon Young
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett

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U.S. Climate Report // Antarctics Sounds


A drying Western U.S.
Photo courtesy

Feature #1 (starts 05:25): A sweeping new report on the state of climate change and its current and future impacts in the United States was recently released in draft form. It’s called the National Climate Assessment.  It comes at a time when major storms and wildfires are increasing in many areas. And last year the continental U.S. experienced its hottest year ever recorded. How On Earth co-host Susan Moran interviews  one of the participating authors of the report, Dr. Dennis Ojima. He’s a professor at Colorado State University in the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Department, and a senior research scientist in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory. Dr. Ojima co-wrote the chapter on the Great Plains.

DJ Spoky performs at CU (photo by Beth Bartel)
DJ Spooky performs a composition based on the geometric structure of ice during a recent visit to CU Boulder’s ATLAS center, accompanied by CU student musicians. (Photo by Beth Bartel)

Feature #2 (starts 16:30): Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky, says the pallet of a 21st-century artist is data. That’s certainly the approach he took after visiting Antarctica in 2007—Miller used scientific data from ice cores and other Antarctic sources to create musical motifs representing the southern continent, then blended them with live performers and his own hip-hop beats. Co-host Ted Burnham speaks with Miller about the process of “remixing” the frozen Antarctic landscape, and about how music and art offer new ways to make scientific topics such as climate change accessible and meaningful.

Producer: Susan Moran
Co-Hosts: Ted Burnham, Susan Moran
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Additional Contributions:
Shelley Schlender

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2011 GoldLab Symposium – Speaker Sessions

Here are audio recordings from the 2011 GoldLab Symposium at CU-Boulder, with both Friday and Saturday sessions.  For power point slides and videos of the session, go to

FRIDAY – PART 1:  Health and Medical Problems Everywhere

Moderator: Fintan Steele, CIMB at CU, Boulder


9 AM:  “Our Dialogue, One Year Later”

Larry Gold –  MCDB, CU and SomaLogic “Our Dialogue, One Year Later”



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Extended interview with Anjali Bhatara

Here’s a longer version of my interview with Anjali Bhatara, which aired on today’s program. Dr. Bhatara is with the Laboratory of the Psychology of Perception at the University of Paris, where she studies the interactions between music and the brain, the mind and the emotions. She has published several papers on music perception in people with autism—especially their ability to pick up on the emotional cues in a song, and how it might be related to their ability to detect emotional cues in speech. I began by asking her which aspects of sound are relevant to musical perception.

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Theme Song Contest // Science of Music

Image courtesy of Flickr user davdenic

Today we announce a contest to find new theme music for How On Earth! Our current theme has served us well for more than 20 years, but we feel it’s time to change our tune. We’re looking to local musicians for that new “How On Earth” sound. Check out our Contest Page for more information, and to listen to and comment on submitted music.

Joining us in the studio today is Tom Wasinger, the Grammy-winning producer of our long-standing theme. We talk with him about the history and creation of that theme, and about his hopes for this new theme music contest. We also hear from Anjali Bhatara, of the Laboratory of the Psychology of Perception in Paris. She studies the way music affects the brain, the mind, and the emotions (hear an extended version of this interview). And we’ll get some advice on selecting a memorable new theme from music expert Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect and founder of the Institute for Music, Health, and Education here in Boulder.

Hosts: Ted Burnham and Tom Yulsman

Engineer: Shelley Schlender

Producer: Ted Burnham

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