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Review

Dawn Senathi-Raja

Music is a fundamental human activity that could be considered a defining human attribute. Despite its value to humans and increased research in recent decades, the perceptual, cognitive, and neural processes underlying music function remain poorly understood. There is ongoing debate as to whether music is merely a cultural artifact or whether the human brain is pre-wired for it. The 'cultural artifact' theory proposes that music is represented in the brain wherever there is unallocated neural matter, and is learnt just like any other secondary skill (Repp, 1991). An opposing theory maintains that music is an innate human function that improves evolutionary fitness by promoting social cohesion and transgenerational communication (Huron, 2001; Peretz, 2001b; Sloboda, 1985). A variant of the genetic hardwiring view proposes that although brain substrates underlie music processing, they remain adaptive to environmental conditioning through music listening, instrument learning, and formal instruction (Altenmuller, 2001; Schuppert, Munte, Wieringa, & Altenmuller, 2000). One approach to resolving this debate involves determining the degree to which music cognition and perception are localised to brain substrates.

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