Want Perfect Pitch? You Might Be Able To Pop A Pill For That
In the world of music, there is no more remarkable gift than having perfect pitch. As the story goes, Ella Fitzgerald's band would use her perfect pitch to tune their instruments.
Although it has a genetic component, most believe that perfect pitch — or absolute pitch — is a primarily a function of early life exposure and training in music, says Takao Hensch, professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard.
Hensch is studying a drug which might allow adults to learn perfect pitch by re-creating this critical period in brain development. Hensch says the drug, valprioc acid, allows the brain to absorb new information as easily as it did before age 7.
"It's a mood-stabilizing drug, but we found that it also restores the plasticity of the brain to a juvenile state," Hensch tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer.
Hensch gave the drug to a group of healthy, young men who had no musical training as children. They were asked to perform tasks online to train their ears, and at the end of a two-week period, tested on their ability to discriminate tone, to see if the training had more effect than it normally would at their age.
In other words, he gave people a pill and then taught them to have perfect pitch. The findings are significant: "It's quite remarkable since there are no known reports of adults acquiring absolute pitch," he says.
On whether the drug could be used to teach other skills
There are a number of examples of critical-period type development, language being one of the most obvious ones. So the idea here was, could we come up with a way that would reopen plasticity, [and] paired with the appropriate training, allow adult brains to become young again?
On the likelihood of the drug becoming common for learning new languages
I think we are getting closer to this day, because we are able to understand at greater cellular detail how the brain changes throughout development. But I should caution that critical periods have evolved for a reason, and it is a process that one probably would not want to tamper with carelessly.
If we've shaped our identities through development, through a critical period, and have matched our brain to the environment in which we were raised —acquiring language, culture, identity — then if we were to erase that by reopening the critical period, we run quite a risk as well.
You are surrounded by dangerous WOMBATS.
They’re everywhere. Sometimes they hide in plain sight, easy to spot. Other times they are well camouflaged, requiring heightened awareness to identify them. You need to stay alert, it’s important to avoid them. WOMBATs resemble ordinary, productive tasks. However, they are vampires for time and resources, weapons of mass distraction.WOMBATs are seductive. Working on a WOMBAT feels productive.WOMBATs are bad for your career.WOMBATs are bad for your business.WOMBATs infiltrate your work day (and your personal time). Strike them down.WOMBATs may be be ingrained in your company culture: “We’ve always done it that way…” WOMBAT Metamorphosis Alert: A task or project that wasproductive in the pastcanevolve into a WOMBAT in today's environment.Your comfort zone is populated with WOMBATs.More on comfort zones, here.Some people are WOMBATs in disguise. Stay away from them, they are vampire WOMBATs.If you don’t control your WOMBATs, your WOMBATs will…
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"Many industry insiders think it is just the beginning. Ask about the future of fashion, and the answer that is likely to come back (along with the importance of Instagram and the transformation of shows into entertainment) is personalization," says Vanessa Friedman from the New York Times.
Phyllis Korkki, an assignment editor at The New York Times, visited the garment district in Manhattan to interview designers as part of a story for the newspaper’s Snapchat account. Credit George Etheredge/The New York Times What Could I Possibly Learn From A Mentor Half My Age? Plenty.
How on earth did I become an “older worker?”
It was only a few years ago, it seems, that I set out to climb the ladder in my chosen field. That field happens to be journalism, but it shares many attributes with countless other workplaces. For instance, back when I was one of the youngest people in the room, I was helped by experienced elders who taught me the ropes.
Now, shockingly, I’m one of the elders. And I’ve watched my industry undergo significant change. That’s why I recently went searching for a young mentor — yes, a younger colleague to mentor me.