Sandra Trehub, Pioneer in the Psychology of Tunes, Dies at 84

Sandra Trehub, a pioneering psychologist whose groundbreaking research shaped our current understanding of the human relationship to music and sound, has died at the age of 84. Her research investigated the various ways people respond to music and sounds, and helped to forge a new branch of study in cognitive science.

Trehub began her academic career at the University of Toronto in 1969, where she began a PhD in psychology. Trehub was the first to explore the ways babies and children interact with music. Her work not only enhanced the understanding of music appreciation, but also highlighted the important roles that music can play in development and socialization.

Trehub’s research found that children, even when as young as three months old, can identify and respond to musical elements such as pitch, tempo, and rhythm. Trehub said in one of her interviews, “There’s a special relationship between music and young children. Music reflects, reinforces, and amplifies our emotions, enabling us to express joy, sorrow, love and anger with greater power.”

Trehub went on to explore the effects of music in adults and pioneered the field of musical neuroscience, studying how musical preferences are linked to brain function. She was one of the first to explore the connections between musical pleasure and the release of dopamine, which is linked to reward and memory consolidation. Her book The Secret Life of Music published in 2016, was a bestseller and she was honoured by the Canadian Psychological Association and Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.

Trehub’s legacy continues to shape the understanding of music’s capacity to evoke emotion and help us adapt. She will be deeply missed, but her remarkable contributions to the field will impact generations of researchers and learners.

Sandra Trehub, a psychologist and researcher whose do the job helped illuminate how kids understand seem, and how lullabies and new music suit into their cognitive and social improvement, died on Jan. 20 at her house in Toronto. She was 84.

The demise was verified by her son Andrew Cohen.

Over a fifty percent-century as a psychologist at the University of Toronto, where by she started doing the job in 1973, Dr. Trehub generated seminal do the job in the subject that is now recognised as the psychology of music.

“Back then, there had been really handful of persons in psychology and neuroscience who were being studying tunes at all as a human conduct,” Laurel Trainor, a psychologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, stated in a cellular phone interview. “Sandra explained, search, audio is universal, we shell out a large amount of time and electrical power on songs — what is its function? Why do we do this?”

Dr. Trehub’s analysis located that there are without a doubt universally shared responses to new music amongst infants, commencing with sing-music-y toddler speak by dad and mom across various cultures.

She found that infants like sure melodic intervals in excess of others and can grasp the contour and shape of a lullaby. She even more established that infants and toddlers can — much better than older people — observe differences in some features of music from other nations and cultures, each tonal and rhythmic. That finding proposed that as men and women get older, their skill to distinguish discrepancies in unfamiliar tunes decreases while their potential to recognize nuance in common songs raises.

“Sandra was the first psychologist to study musical capabilities for their personal sake in infants,” Isabelle Peretz, a neuroscientist at the College of Montreal, wrote in an e mail. Right before Dr. Trehub, she extra, numerous researchers believed “that musicality was a pure cultural product which was acquired and possessed by a handful of choose persons: the musicians.”

It is now commonly approved that new music is an vital developmental device for anyone, starting off in infancy, and that musical fluency among the moms and dads can deeply affect their children’s lengthy-expression well being and psychological growth.

“Her do the job helps to legitimize early childhood new music education and learning, which in essence didn’t exist just before the 1980s,” Samuel Mehr, a psychologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and director of the Songs Lab at Haskins Laboratories, Yale University, mentioned by e-mail.

Dr. Trehub’s conclusions could possibly appear intuitive or even obvious now, he added, but that only highlights the worth of her do the job. “Every bit of exploration in the psychology of music more than the past 40 many years can be traced back to Sandra Trehub,” he said.

Sandra Edythe Trehub was born on May well 21, 1938, in Montreal. She acquired her bachelor’s degree in economics at McGill University in Montreal in 1959 and her master’s in psychology there in 1971.

Following finishing her doctorate, also at McGill, she started her career as an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. Some of her earliest get the job done confirmed how infants as younger as just one month aged could distinguish among speech seems in a paper, she wrote that infants would boost their “sucking rate” on an artificial nipple when new vowels were launched.

Using the very same methodology, Dr. Trehub went on to exhibit in an additional paper how infants can distinguish in between sounds in some international languages superior than older people. That finding, reported Janet Werker, a psychologist at the College of British Columbia, delivered the groundwork for a massive entire body of subsequent exploration demonstrating that toddlers are born with the skill to choose up on the primary acoustics of any of the world’s languages. The research has served to heighten the significance of early publicity to foreign languages, with continuing ramifications in training.

As Dr. Trehub acquired tenure at the College of Toronto, her work shifted from speech to audio. She posted prolifically in journals, including two influential papers in 1977. A single confirmed that the coronary heart prices of five-thirty day period-old infants transformed when exposed to diverse rhythms. The other showed that infants can sense the associations in between notes — they can inform when the identical melody is transposed to a diverse key. Dr. Trehub’s exploration was motivated in section by her individual like of audio two of her preferred singers ended up Leonard Cohen and David Bowie.

Dr. Trehub’s marriage to Norman Cohen in 1957 ended in divorce in 1968. She married Ronald Matthews in 1970 he died in 2007. In addition to her son Andrew, she is survived by two additional youngsters, Dana and Ira Cohen her sisters, Estelle Ebert and Maxine Seidman 18 grandchildren and two terrific-grandchildren.

She also leaves an intellectual lineage of psychologists who researched with her and went on to head some of the most active psychology of new music labs in the entire world.

Dr. Trainor, a single of Dr. Trehub’s early graduate students, remembered going to talks on the psychology of audio in the 1980s and ’90s with minor much more than 10 people today in the audience. Now there are conferences with hundreds of researchers.

“Part of that is a testomony to Sandra, and the high quality of her work — she could not be dismissed,” explained Dr. Trainor.

Glenn Schellenberg, a psychologist at the College of Toronto who wrote more than 30 content articles with Dr. Trehub, agreed. “She was like Joni Mitchell,” he said by mobile phone. “In the conclude, she genuinely got just about every credit that she deserved.”

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