The Anatomy of the Arts

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

Image by Your Brain on Art

Image by Your Brain on Art

Sandra Trehub, a research pioneer in the field of developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience, known for her significant contributions to our understanding of early auditory perception and its impact on child development, has passed away at the age of 84. Her work has shed light on various aspects of infant cognition, particularly in the domain of music perception and emotional processing. She demonstrated that infants can distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar melodies, and express musical preference. Her work deepened our understanding of how essential music is to the human experience and that from infancy we are neurologically primed to perceive and appreciate music.

"Sandra Trehub, a psychologist and researcher whose work helped illuminate how children perceive sound, and how lullabies and music fit into their cognitive and social development, died on Jan. 20 at her home in Toronto. She was 84.

The death was confirmed by her son Andrew Cohen.

Over a half-century as a psychologist at the University of Toronto, where she began working in 1973, Dr. Trehub produced seminal work in the field that is now known as the psychology of music.

“Back then, there were very few people in psychology and neuroscience who were studying music at all as a human behavior,” Laurel Trainor, a psychologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, said in a phone interview. “Sandra said, look, music is universal, we spend a lot of time and energy on music — what is its purpose? Why do we do this?”

Dr. Trehub’s research found that there are indeed universally shared responses to music among infants, beginning with sing-song-y baby talk by parents across different cultures." Read More at NY Times