Rock musician Todd Rundgren, best known for his 1972 hit “Hello It’s Me,” visited Northwestern for a discussion with neuroscientist Nina Kraus about how music shapes the nervous system and improves communication skills.


Kraus, Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Communication Sciences at the School of Communication, hosted the April 1 event in the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, which she directs.


Rundgren — a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and record producer — toured the lab and met a young musician who had participated in previous studies. Later, he underwent testing to demonstrate the electric activity generated by a musician's brain.


“Hello It’s Me” and other best-known songs Rundgren wrote, such as “I Saw the Light” and "Bang the Drum All Day,” are in regular rotation on classic rock radio. Rundgren also has produced scores of hit records, including Meat Loaf's “Bat out of Hell,” which became a best-seller in the 1970s.


Rundgren and Kraus found common ground in a shared love of music and its effects on learning. They talked in detail about Kraus’ and others’ research exploring how music affects humans across the lifespan, especially by enhancing memory and the ability to understand speech in noise.


“This research makes a strong case for music education from a scientific perspective,” Rundgren said. “We frequently see studies about the ways in which making music can influence a student socially and academically — and obviously artistically — but this data involving brain development adds compelling evidence to support the importance of bringing music to all students.”


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