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JGRP Project (2018-2020): The Cognitive and Neurological Effects of Traditional Modal Monodies on Lebanese Children and Teenagers
This project received joint support from the National Council for Scientific Research in Lebanon (CNRS-L) and the Antonine University (UA), as part of the Joint Grant Research Program 2018-2020
  • Investigators
    • Main investigator
      Pr. Nidaa ABOU MRAD (Professor of Musicology, Dean of the Faculty of Music and Musicology (FMM), director of the Centre for Research on Musical Traditions, Head of the Department of General Musicology of Traditions and Editor-in-Chief of the Revue des traditions musicales (in addition to his status as Vice-rector for Academic Affairs and Research at UA));
    • Co-investigators
      1. Dr Bouchra Bechealany, Associate Professor in Music Education at the Lebanese University, Faculty of Pedagogy, and Associate Researcher at the CRTM-UA;
      2. Dr Karine Abou Khaled, Assistant Professor in Medicine at Université Saint Joseph, Medical School - Beirut, Lebanon, Neurologist (Specialist in Epilepsy); and
      3. Dr Hayaf Yassine, Assistant Professor in Music and Musicology, Director of North Section of the Faculty of Music and Musicology at Université Antonine.
  • Abstract
    This research investigates the cognitive and neurological effects of traditional Mashriq monodies, based on modes, on Lebanese children and teenagers. It applies neurocognitive approach on the perception of a specific traditional monodical modal music, through the epistemological interface of grammatical significance inherent to the modal semiotics theory. This theory identifies the intrinsic meanings of the underlying grammatical musical structures of these monodies. Three main questions are tackled and empirically verified: (1) How well are these meanings, as per their specific semiotic modalities, perceived by Lebanese children? (2) How listening to modal monodies improves cognitive skills? (3) How listening to these monodies leads to neurophysiological effects similar to those related to the Mozart effect on epilepsy? A cognitive approach is applied to respond to the first two questions. A neurological approach is also implemented to answer the third question.

Themes (following Priorities): Transdisciplinary Cognitive Researches
Sub-Themes: Music Cognition and Music Neurological Effects
Duration of The Project (1-2Years): 2 years
Keywords: Music Effects. Music Cognition. Music Therapy. Music and Epilepsy. Traditional Modal Monodies of the Mashriq.

  • Background and Rationale of The Project
    In Antiquity and Middle Age, the psychophysiological effects of music have been widely described. This includes the use of music as a therapeutic adjuvant for mental and physical diseases. Several Arabic manuscripts of the Abbasid era and of later centuries associate the modes (melodic grammatical models) of monodic (one-voice) musical sequences with feelings and thoughts and healing powers (Abou Mrad, 1989).

    Later on, the twentieth-century experimental works on music perception and its therapeutic effects focused solely on the study of the perception of Western tonal harmonic music, without taking into consideration the cultural specificities, in terms of local music traditions.

    An example of such work would be the concept of “Mozart effect”, which derives from the work carried out in the 1990s in the U.S. by FH Rauscher (1993), which highlighted a stimulating effect on cognitive performance, after listening to musical fragments composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (K. 448). This effect was subsequently tested in neurology, in 1998, by the American team of JR Hughes (1998), then, starting 2011, by the Taiwanese team of Lung Chag Lin (2010, 2011a, 2011b, 2014). These studies demonstrated that listening to Mozart compositions helps in reducing seizures and improvement of the short-term and long-term children electroencephalography. None of the existing works considered the local cultural specifities of music.

    Our study will fill the gap by studying the perception of the local modal monodic musical traditions of the Mashriq by Lebanese children and teenagers. The use of this type of music is facilitated by the fact that a new scientific approach has been developed by Abou Mrad (2016). This Modal Semiotic theory highlights the existence of a musical generative grammar for modal monodies. The resulting musical semantics allows the determination of endosemiotic meanings that are inherent in the underlying melodic structures of monodies, supposed to be related to cognitive and sensorial universals. This concerns, in particular, the phenomenon of preamplification of the sound signal in the organ of Corti, objectified by stimulated (by inoculating two sinusoidal sounds f_1and f_2) acoustic emissions from the human auditory system. The observation of acoustic emissions maximization when f_2/f_1 =√(3/2) (Bonfils et al, 1986) gives a privileged place to the melodic intervals of thirds in terms of music sensitive perception (Abou Mrad, 2016). Consequently, Modal Semiotics constructs from two chains of thirds a main nucleus α, linked to the mode finale note, and a secondary nucleus β, complementary and opposite to the first. These nuclei serve as generative phonological indicators underlying monodies.

    In addition, semiotic analysis highlights semiotic vectors that constitute underlying generative syntactic indicators for monodies: vector-question αβ=q, vector-response βα=r, primordial vector-prolongation αα=p and suspensive secondary vector-prolongation ββ=s.

    Along with the above, exosemiotic or referential meanings emerge from this theory and are inherent to the surface rhythmic structure of these monodies, related to cultural anthropological schemes.

    This raises the question of the articulation between cognitive/semiotic universals corresponding to deep melodic structures and cultural specificities related to the rhythmic surface structures of the same monodies studied.
  • Scientific Scope of the Project
    This research studies the cognitive and neurological effects of traditional Mashriq monodies, on Lebanese children and teenagers. It will apply neurocognitive methodology on the perception of traditional monodic modal music through the epistemological interface of grammatical significance inherent to the modal semiotics theory.

    In addition, the semiotic apprehension of modal monodies opens the way to answer many concerns related to the perception of these meanings to be conveyed by traditional modal monodies. These concerns are centered around the following scopes:
    • How well are the music universal meanings, carried on by melodic deep structures (as per their specific semantic modalities), perceived by Lebanese children?
    • How well are the music specific cultural meanings, carried on by rhythmic surface structures (as per their anthropologic referential semantic modalities), perceived by Lebanese children?
    • How listening to modal monodies leads to cognitive results, similar to those related to the cognitive “Mozart effect”, by improving space-time mental skills of Lebanese teenagers.
    • How listening to these monodies leads to neurophysiological effects similar to those related to the Mozart effect on epilepsy?
    • Is there a correlation between cognitive modal monodies effect and neurologic modal monodies effect?
    • What is the neuroanatomic localization of these effects?
      A cognitive multifactorial approach is applied to respond to the first three questions and a neurological approach is implemented to answer the remaining three questions, where Lebanese children and teenagers will be exposed to experimental protocols.
  • Proposed Methods and Techniques
    Protocol 1: Perception of Melodic Semiotic Modalities
    The first question is supported by an experimental study on a sample of 80 children from 8 to 10 years old, over a three-month period.

    Ten tests will be used, combining visual symbols accessible to children to musical fragments, to check whether the tested children are properly identifying in music semantic modalities. Statistics models will be implemented.

    Protocol 2: Perception of Cultural Semiotic Rhythmic Stratum
    The second question is supported by a similar experimental study, which aims to objectify the perception of the stratified structure of monodies rhythm.

    Ten tests will be used, combining visual symbols to musical fragments, children being invited to sit for three different tests: (1) isochronic beat, (2) syllabic pulse and (3) morphologic (metasyllabic aksak) pulse.

    Protocol 3: Cognitive Taḥmīla Effect
    The third question is supported by an adaptation of the first Rauscher protocol (1993) to monodic Taḥmīla, recorded in the style of violinist Sami Chawa. The choice was made on the basis of an analogy with the Mozartian piece, in terms of a deep grammatical richness with surface simplicity.

    Lebanese teenagers will be divided into 4 groups of 80 each, to listen, for 4 minutes, to Mozart K448, to Taḥmīla, to a repetitive music, or to silence.

    10 minutes after listening, teenagers will pass a spatial reasoning test.

    This research will examine the following hypothesis:

    H0: the cognitive Taḥmīla effect is less powerful as that of Mozart.
    H1: the cognitive Taḥmīla effect is as powerful as that of Mozart.

    We will be using SPSS, NumXL and StatTools.

    Protocol 4: The Short-Term Neurologic Levantine Music Effect
    The fourth question is answered through adapting two protocols of LC Lin to the Lebanese context, and testing on Lebanese epileptic children the effects on the improvement of the electric discharges of Taḥmīla.

    The short-term neurologic music effect protocol takes into consideration a group of 40 children and teenagers.

    The EEG will be continuously recorded following three phases process: prelistening (10 min), listening to Taḥmīla (4 min), after listening to music (10 min).

    The purpose is to test the instantaneous impact of musical listening on discharges.

    H0: there is no short-term neurologic Taḥmīla effect.
    H1: listening to Taḥmīla music reduces the frequency of electric discharges.

    Protocol 5: The Medium-Term Neurologic Taḥmīla Music Effect
    The protocol consists in taking into consideration a group of 10 children and teenagers, who had good results in the short-term neurologic music effect.

    The group will listen to Taḥmīla, once a day before bed time, for a period of six months, with EEG at the end.

    To this end, the following hypothesis testing will be conducted:
    • H0: there is no medium-term neurologic Taḥmīla effect.
    • H1: listening to Taḥmīla music reduces the frequency of electric discharges on the medium-term.

    Protocol 6: Cognitive Chawa Effect and Neurologic Chawa Effect Correlation
    The more reactive children to the Neurologic Taḥmīla short-term and mid-term effect will pass the cognitive test, in order to verify if there is a correlation between Cognitive Taḥmīla effect and Neurologic Taḥmīla effect.

    Protocol 7: Neuroanatomic Localization of Taḥmīla Effect
    A final protocol will be applied to ten patients who demonstrate a significant electroencephalographic responsiveness to musical listening. To this end will be performed a dynamic magnetic resonance imaging of human brain activity during primary sensory stimulation, consisting in listening sequentially to Taḥmīla fragment.
  • Expected Outputs and Impact on Society
    This is the first academic study, to our knowledge, tackling at the same time two dimensions, the cognitive and the neurophysiological impact of Mashriq music on Lebanese children and teenagers. Societal benefits are primarily educational: the results should have an impact on the educational system in Lebanon, with the demonstration that listening to these monodies, like European classical musical excerpts, is likely to improve the mental skills of children and teenagers and to reinforce Lebanese children and teenagers in their cultural roots. By highlighting cognitive and emotional psychological schemes in relation to the musical meanings of traditional monodies, it is possible to develop protocols for receptive music therapy, adjuvant and complementary to the usual psychotherapeutic pathways, which would focus on modal music, and this, in echo of medieval Arabic music therapy. By demonstrating reductive effects on the epileptic discharges of these same monodies, this research will open the way to an adjunctive music therapy in neurology for epilepsy in an Oriental context.