The nature of music from a biological perspective

Cognition. 2006 May;100(1):1-32. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2005.11.004. Epub 2006 Feb 20.


Music, as language, is a universal human trait. Throughout human history and across all cultures, people have produced and enjoyed music. Despite its ubiquity, the musical capacity is rarely studied as a biological function. Music is typically viewed as a cultural invention. In this paper, the evidence bearing on the biological perspective of the musical capacity is reviewed. Related issues, such as domain-specificity, innateness, and brain localization, are addressed in an attempt to offer a unified conceptual basis for the study of music processing. This scheme should facilitate the study of the biological foundations of music by bringing together the fields of genetics, developmental and comparative research, neurosciences, and musicology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Emotions
  • Genetics, Behavioral
  • Humans
  • Instinct
  • Language Development
  • Music / psychology*
  • Pitch Perception / physiology
  • Psychophysiology