Pre-thinking:

Many scientists are also fine musicians; Robert Gupta believes they understand that art and music are able to transcend the what science and technology can do. As you listen to him, pay attention to the role of music in the treatment of neurological disorders and brain trauma. In addition, music boosts the human growth hormone, lowers anxiety levels in cancer chemotherapy wards, lowers heart rate and blood pressure.

Why you should listen:

As an undergrad, Gupta was part of several research projects in neuro- and neurodegenerative biology. He held Research Assistant positions at CUNY Hunter College in New York City, where he worked on spinal cord neuronal regeneration, and at the Harvard Institutes of Medicine Center for Neurologic Diseases, where he studied the biochemical pathology of Parkinson’s disease. He has a intense parallel interest in neurobiology and mental health issues.

He’s a TED Senior Fellow.

Who is he:

Violinist Robert Vijay Gupta joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the age of 19. He made his solo debut, at age 11, with the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. He has a Master’s in music from Yale. But his undergraduate degree? Pre-med.

Gupta is passionate about education and outreach, both as a musician and as an activist for mental health issues. He has the privilege of working with Nathaniel Ayers, the brilliant, schizophrenic musician featured in “The Soloist,” as his violin teacher.

Questions:

  1. The homeless musician (Nathaniel Ayers) did not respond well to conventional treatments that work, to some extent with many other people; what was the role of music in recovery?
  1. What symptoms of schizophrenia did Nathaniel Ayers manifest? What symptoms, often associated with schizophrenia, did he not present?
  1. Do some research into the neural processes that are triggered by music and present your findings to someone else for discussion.
  1. What does Robert consider the redemptive quality of music?
  1. As you listened to Robert playing, what emotions do you experience? Was he able to express a level of emotion with his music?
  1. Find a musical instrument and play it for several days in a row; note whether your playing has any impact on feelings of emotional or physical well being.

Music is medicine, music is sanity with Robert Gupta

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