Posted by: Jensen Hearing | October 21, 2015

Brain “on Jazz” possibly leading to new treatments for hearing loss

An Ear Nose and Throat surgeon with fascination with music studies how the brain works and responds to jazz. Our brain is poorly understood. How does the brain work when it hears sound? He used functional MRI using Blood Imaging.

It takes only a few seconds to notice that Charles Limb is not your ordinary physician. After all, not all doctors have a small recording booth set up near their office or the latest issues of Bass Player, Downbeat, and Electronic Musician on their desk.

A talented saxophonist who directed a jazz band at Harvard University during college and played at New Haven restaurants during medical school at Yale, Limb is also a composer, studio engineer, and music historian (see p.21). He has extensively examined the creativity of composers such as Beethoven and Smetana, both of whom lost their hearing as adults, and he’s written about Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph despite being deaf ( a little-known fact).

And while he does keep some musical things to himself—he’s amassed a personal collection of instruments that includes a Rhodes piano, Hohner clarinet, and the obscure Chapman Stick—Limb has never hesitated to share this passion. In addition to writing numerous magazine articles and making frequent symposia appearances, he holds a joint faculty appointment at Hopkins’ Peabody Institute, where he lectures on using computers to study music.

“Basically, I’m a music addict,” he admits. “And I consider myself extremely fortunate to have found a career that enables me to feed my addiction.”

Limb was a recently minted resident and surgical fellow at Johns Hopkins in 2003, when he began a research fellowship with Braun at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was coming into vogue, and Braun’s lab was using such imaging to track how the brain processes language and how disorders like stroke disrupt speech. “That led me to think that we could use this same approach to study people while they were doing musical things,” Limb says.

You can also listen to him talking about studying creativity scientifically. Check out his TED Talk –


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