Hearing music is so very, very, weird.

2010-08-24 10:38

So, they’re still messing around with ADHD drugs and dosage. Currently, the experiment is bupropion (aka wellbutrin and about 6 other brand names), which tends to increase availability of dopamine and norepinephrine.

This one has a really, really, weird effect. When it starts working, I can suddenly hear music. I’m not sure how to explain this. Most music has more than one component; say, two or more instruments. Normally I can hear an instrument, or I can hear harmonies. I cannot hear two instruments, or hear relationships between them. When this stuff is working, suddenly I can hear two or three things at once and experience the relationship between them.

This. Is. Amazing.

I normally like music because an external beat tends to make my head a little less full of static — computer geeks will recognize the notion of a clock signal. But when this stuff is working, I like music because it’s beautiful and full of depth and complexity I normally can’t hear.

I think I’m gonna use this as my benchmark for whether medication is working. There’s some issues with trying to find a dosage where my meds work well. One of the problems is that it’s extremely hard to measure cognitive functionality of the sort I have trouble with. How would I know whether I remembered things? I can’t usually tell until I’m reminded of them. And even when things are working well, I still forget stuff.

But ultimately, the purpose of medication is to achieve quality-of-life. And I think that hearing music is a quality-of-life issue.

Peter Seebach




  1. Tyler Cowen, in “Age of the Infovore,” has a section on listening to music, and why he (being autistic) finds much music pleasing that most people don’t enjoy — he speculates that enhanced pattern recognition makes it intelligible.
    — seebs’ mom

    Linda Seebach · 2010-08-24 12:28 · #

  2. That’s an interesting and obviously a great experience.

    On a related note, earlier today, I was walking over to my lunch spot while listening to the trashy but amusing. “This Week In Tech” podcast. It was better than previouis episode because Jerry Pournelle and John C Dvorak were guests. At one point the normally well marshaled discussion forked and suddenly there were two streams for an annoyingly long time. I tried and of course failed to follow both flows so I did what every self-respecting iPod Touch owning geek would do, I pulled the iPod out or my pocket, stabbed my finger at the “back by 30 seconds icon” and listened to the other flow. Now you might be bored with my tedious description so far but my next thought was that I clearly needed another voice processing unit! It amused me at the time, maybe you’ll get a smile out of the story. Maybe following several streams of conversation will become an evolutionary advantage and be selected for in our increasing crowded cities.

    As I was writing this comment I started to write that “clearly my brain needed an upgrade so that I could handle the situation in hardware rather than throwing a software exception”. Maybe I need to stay away from the computer a bit more.

    — vMeson · 2010-09-07 20:56 · #