This unit of study explores how musical sound is identified and processed by the human ear and brain and the subsequent effects and interrelationships music has with our memory, emotions, and physical wellbeing. Students begin with a review of hearing and brain anatomy and function, with a focus on the neural processes that transfer sound from the ear to the brain and the parts of the brain responsible for processing auditory information. This leads to an exploration of how people identify and recognise sounds, undergoing the process from sensation to cognition. The unit then continues with studies of the relationship between music and memory, and between music and emotion. The effects of music on childhood development and learning are then explored, as well as an introduction to the principles of music therapy and the potential effects music can have on treating people with illnesses and disabilities. The unit concludes with an exploration of theories of musical talent, and the essential cognitive traits of a professional or expert musician.

Unit details

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Students enrolled in course code ABAB and LBLA  must complete at least 24 credit points (equivalent to 2 units) of an Arts Major before undertaking any Level 3 units.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
  1. Articulate key theoretical concepts and terminology related to psychoacoustics, music perception and cognition;  
  2. Analyse and evaluate how sound and music affect intellectual, emotional and physical states in both everyday and therapeutic contexts;  
  3. Discriminate between objective physical sensations and responses, and subjective emotional/intellectual sensations and responses to sound and music;  
  4. Reflect on the effects music has on life experience, memory and cultural identity; and  
  5. Investigate the effects of musical exposure and tuition on childhood development.  


Assessment type Description Grade
Essay Detailed exploration of one area of interest (equiv. 2000 words) 25%
Examination Lecture topics and key terminologies (equiv. 750 words) 50%
Test Short online quizzes (equiv. 250 words) 25%

Required reading

This Is Your Brain On Music
Levitin, D 2008,
London: Atlantic Books

Additional materials will be provided by the lecturer

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