Pitzer College Professor Timothy Justus Receives GRAMMY Foundation Grant to Examine Music, Language and the Brain

A VLSM analysis indicating the areas of the brain most essential to language comprehension.
A VLSM analysis indicating the areas of the brain most essential to language comprehension.

Claremont, Calif. (April 15, 2013)—Pitzer College Assistant Professor of Psychology Timothy Justus was selected by the GRAMMY Foundation for a $19,900 grant to support research that will examine how the brain processes music and language. Justus received one of only five scientific research grants given by the foundation this year.

Justus’ research will explore the extent to which music and language share neural resources. He will evaluate music perception and cognition in a group of 40 aphasic individuals whose ability to speak and understand language has been disrupted by some form of damage to the brain. He will use voxel-based lesion-symptom mapping (VLSM), which can analyze relationships between behavioral deficits in this population and lesion sites in the brain associated with those language deficits. Justus will identify the areas of the brain that are most essential to the perception of melody, harmony and rhythm, and compare these regions with similar VLSM analyses of language in the same participants.

“In the past, many psychologists and linguists assumed that our ability to use language was driven by language-specific modules in the brain,” Justus said. “We now know that language is driven by a network of brain regions that are at least partly shared with other kinds of cognition. Knowing to what extent language and music use shared—versus independent—brain resources has numerous implications for how we approach rehabilitation from aphasia.”

A musician himself, Justus specializes in cognitive neuroscience and has conducted extensive research that explores the relationship between music and cognition.

This year, the GRAMMY Foundation Grant Program provided more than $200,000 in grants to support archival and preservation efforts as well as research projects that examine the impact of music on human development.

“Since its inception, our GRAMMY Foundation Grant Program has awarded more than $6 million to more than 300 noteworthy projects,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation. “This year we have another remarkable slate of selected grantees.”

The GRAMMY Foundation was established in 1989 to cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture. The Foundation supports programs and activities that engage the music industry and cultural community as well as the general public.

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