Volume 31 Issue 3 | March 2017

Featured Articles

image: Understanding the Roots of Human Musicality

Understanding the Roots of Human Musicality

By Catherine Offord | March 1, 2017

Researchers are using multiple methods to study the origins of humans’ capacity to process and produce music, and there’s no shortage of debate about the results.

image: Song Around the Animal Kingdom

Song Around the Animal Kingdom

By The Scientist Staff | March 1, 2017

Diverse species are said to sing, but music is in the ear of the beholder.

image: Exploring the Mechanisms of Music Therapy

Exploring the Mechanisms of Music Therapy

By Elizabeth Stegemöller | March 1, 2017

The principles of neuroplasticity may underlie the positive effects of music therapy in treating a diversity of diseases.




Meet some of the people featured in the March 2017 issue of The Scientist.


Song of Ourselves

“Nature’s melodies” may be a human construct that says more about us than about the musicality of other animals.

Speaking of Science

Notable Science Quotes

Music, the future of American science, and more


Musical Tastes: Nature or Nurture?

Studies of remote Amazonian villages reveal how culture influences our musical preferences.

Understanding the Connection Between Synesthesia and Absolute Pitch

Researchers investigate the unusual association of musical sounds with tastes or colors through the lens of another perceptual quirk.

Music Tailored to Animals’ Tastes

The evidence is equivocal on whether animals dig human songs, so scientists set out to make music that mimics their soundscapes.

Understanding Music Heard Through Cochlear Implants

Music sounds very different to cochlear implant users. Researchers are trying to improve the experience.


Opinion: Improving FDA Evaluations Without Jeopardizing Safety and Efficacy

What can be done to lower development costs and drug prices?

Modus Operandi

Massively Parallel Perturbations

Scientists combine CRISPR gene editing with single-cell sequencing for genotype-phenotype screens.


Birds May Make Music, But They Lack Rhythm

Birdsong bears a striking resemblance to human music, but it’s not yet clear that birds interpret it that way.

Bats Sing Sort of Like Birds

Some bat vocalizations resemble bird songs, though at higher frequencies, and as researchers unveil the behaviors’ neural underpinnings, the similarities may run even deeper.

Researchers Study Rodent Songs They Can’t Hear

Mice and rats produce ultrasonic signals to attract mates.

Untangling the Social Webs in Frog Choruses

Frogs and other anurans call to attract mates, and individuals must strive for their voices to be heard in the crowd.

From Cricket Choruses to Drosophila Calls

A handful of insect species communicate using auditory signals—sounds that researchers have dubbed “song.”

The Mystery of Whale Song

Structured whale songs are shared by group members and evolve over time, but the calls’ functions are still unclear.

Fish Use a Variety of Sounds to Communicate

Many fish species click, grunt, growl, grumble, or hum—but is it music?

The Literature

Neural Activity Reflects a Bird’s Perception of How Well It Sings

Zebra finches dial down dopamine signaling when they hear errors in a song performance.

Rhythm Arises from Random Beats in a “Telephone” Game

An experiment in which people pass each other initially nonrhythmic drumming sequences reveals the human affinity for musical patterns.

The Literature

Birds Possess an Innate Vocal Signature Based on Silent Gaps

 Zebra finches reared by another species learn to sing their foster parents’ song with rhythms characteristic of their genetic background.


Singing In the Brain

His first love was dance, but Erich Jarvis has long courted another love—understanding how the brain learns vocalization.

Scientist to Watch

John Iversen Explores our Perception of Musical Rhythm

At the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, the researcher studies the neurobiology of music perception.

Lab Tools

A Selection of CRISPR Proof-of-Principle Studies

Advice on how to deploy the latest techniques in your own lab


The Past and Present of Research Integrity in China

Several initiatives aim to improve research integrity in the country, but recent high-profile cases of misconduct highlight a lingering problem.

Reading Frames

How Bad Singing Landed Me in an MRI Machine

One author's journey through the science of his congenital amusia


Newton’s Color Theory, ca. 1665

Newton’s rainbow forms the familiar ROYGBIV because he thought the range of visible colors should be analogous to the seven-note musical scale.

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