Music and the Brain

Topics: Brain, Primary auditory cortex, Temporal lobe Pages: 5 (1788 words) Published: May 9, 2013
Plato once said “I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for in the patterns of music and all the arts are the keys of learning.” Man's history has been closely related to music and we all know the emotional impact music has on people's moods and how moods influence the impression or interpretation of music. So what is it that makes people emotionally respond to music? What parts of the brain fire when listening to certain types of music? Why is it that when you hear a particular song it strikes up a distant memory? Can music help restore some of the abilities in neurological patients? These are some questions that the cognitive neuroscience of music is beginning to address. First one needs to understand what music is. Essentially, music is a vibration. When one speaks sound waves are produced by the mouth, compressing air molecules as they travel out. If our naked eye could observe sound waves moving, an individual could observe the molecules come together and then push apart. An example of this would be the ripples in a pond. When the stagnant pond is disrupted by a stone being dropped into it or a boat pushing through it, waves are created and then the water molecules push back. This back-and-forth movement is the vibration. A Swiss scientist Hans Jenny coined the term Cymatics which in Greek means wave. Cymatics is the study of sound waves. Jenny’s experiment showed what happens when one takes various materials like sand, water, and viscous substances, and places them on vibrating metal plates and membranes. What then appears are eloquent shapes and motion- patterns which vary from the nearly perfectly ordered and stationary, to those that are turbulently developing, organic, and constantly in motion (Jenny, 1967). Elena Mannes wrote a book called The Power of Music: Pioneering Discoveries in the New Science of Song, in her book she interviewed several scientist in order to get down to the heart of music, and understand why it has such an impact on almost every aspect of our life and how we think and learn. Scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. Collectively, studies of patients with brain injuries and imaging of healthy individuals have unexpectedly uncovered no specialized brain "center" for music. Rather music engages many areas distributed throughout the brain, including those that are normally involved in other kinds of cognition. (Mannes, 2011). Dr. Vinoo Alluri from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, and his research team documented the brain responses of individuals who were listening to a piece of modern Argentinian tango. Dr. Vinoo Alluri and his team observed the brain activity in their clients by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which helps determine which part of the brain is responding to the stimuli. Subsequently, using sophisticated computer algorithms, they analyzed the musical content of the tango, showing how the music’s rhythmic, tonal and timbral (which helps one distinguish different sounds from the same tone or volume) components evolve over time. Successfully, this was the first time such a study had been carried out using real music instead of artificially constructed music-like sound stimuli. Once Dr. Vinoo Alluri and his team analyzed their data they came up with some interesting finds. They found that music listening activates not only the auditory areas of the brain which is located in the temporal lobe, but also engages large-scale neural networks. For instance, they discovered that the processing of musical pulse stimulates motor areas in the brain, supporting the idea that music and movement are closely interwoven. The music also showed to have excited the limbic areas of the brain, known to be associated with emotions, the findings found to be involved in rhythm and tonality processing. Processing of timbre was associated with activations in the so-called default...
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