The Brain and Music

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Music Enters Brain through 8th Cranial Nerve

October 16th, 2015 · how the brain works, music and the brain

The topic of music and the brain is endlessly fascinating to me!  If we could only really understand the power of music to improve not only our health, but our entire lives, the greatest labs on the planet would be working on this around the clock.  Of course, this is not happening around the clock, but it is finally happening a lot more often than it was even fifty years ago.

Neuroscientists and neuromusicologists are investigating all kinds of exciting phenomena in illness, wellness and greatly improved quality of life.  We all know that certain music can make us feel ecstatically happy, devastatingly sad, fantastically energized,  and superbly relaxed!!  And the music that does this will vary from person to person!  That is why those of us in the fields of music medicine or music therapy or music healing or sound healing, know that letting the patient choose their preferred music is so important.

But how does the music enter the brain?  Well, the exact location is the 8th cranial nerve, but there’s so much more fascinating information to learn about this.  Recently, an article appeared that looks at all the benefits of music on stress management and concluded that

The kids listen 15 minutes a day, five days a week.

Alexis Obeldobel, 7, says, “I like the sound of the instruments.”

Her Mom says it works for her three children who are using the program.

“I can tell the behavior, they’re much calmer and more focused when they do listen,” she said.

Damien Maine, 7, also likes to listen. His mom, Jennifer, loves the program.

She says, “He’s actually able to sit down and focus on something and deal with outside noises and not have a problem thinking, listening and writing.”

“The Listening Program” works for adults, too, whether they want to improve executive function or reduce stress.

Dantry, who uses it for the kids she helps at the school, tried it herself.

“I know for me, I’m a high stress person, and it made me a lot more calm, able to deal with things on a daily basis easier than I typically would,” she said.

The Listening program is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is used across the country and must be through a licensed and trained occupational therapist.

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More about how music affects brain plasticity

September 30th, 2015 · how the brain works, music and the brain

First of all, let’s take a look at the definition of brain plasticity.  According to Wikipedia:

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity, is an umbrella term that encompasses both synaptic plasticity and non-synaptic plasticity—it refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking, and emotions – as well as to changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] The concept of neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes in the course of a lifetime.[2]

Neuroplasticity occurs on a variety of levels, ranging from cellular changes (due to learning) to large-scale changes involved in cortical remapping in response to injury. The role of neuroplasticity is widely recognized[by whom?] in healthy development, learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage. During most of the 20th century, neuroscientists maintained a scientific consensus that brain structure was relatively immutable after a critical period during early childhood. This belief has been challenged by findings revealing that many aspects of the brain remain plastic even into adulthood.[3]

How can music affect brain plasticity?  As you see above, neuroscientists formerly believed that the brain was static and could not change.  Now we know that that is not true!  The brain can definitely change and music can play a significant role in that.

“Multiple previous posts have described the unique way that music uses much of the brain, with multiple senses, modalities and parts of the brain. Any music training and practice can have wide ranging brain effects, especially playing or singing with others.”  As I’ve said here many times, live music is always better than recorded music, and when YOU are performing the music, even just singing in the shower or beating on a drum, your brain will stay younger and think better!! – See more at:

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Brain Surgery with Music: from the patient!

August 29th, 2015 · how the brain works, music and the brain

There are many kinds of surgery for which music through headphones can be a huge asset.  Every day now, patients are using the Surgical Serenity Headphones for joint replacements, heart surgery, abdominal surgeries, labor and delivery, C-sections and more.  About the only surgeries for which the headphones are contraindicated are head and neck surgeries, ear surgery and that’s about it!

For people who need brain surgery, it’s a whole different surgery.  The skull and brain have no pain receptors, so the only pain is for the skin incision on the skull.  This is taken care of with local anesthesia.  According to the Ohio State University, Wexler Medical Center, “Patients undergoing awake brain surgery are anesthetized just enough so they will doze during the incision in their skin and removal of a section of the skull. Anesthesia is then withdrawn and patients are coaxed into consciousness so they can speak during procedures on the brain itself.”

One of the most amazing videos I’ve seen on YouTube, shows a professional singer actually singing during his brain surgery.  See for yourself, the miracles of the brain and modern surgery!

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The Brain and Rhythm: Is it the secret to groovy drumming?

July 30th, 2015 · how the brain works, music and the brain

Recently, the online site, published an article talking about fractals in music.  I found it fascinating because I’ve always loved teaching rhythm to students who previously thought it was all indecipherable!

Rhythm in music and in life is a major key indicator of health.  What is the first thing a doctor does when she enters the examining room?  She shakes your hand and exchanges a few pleasantries, noting the firmness of your handshake and listening carefully to your vocal strength, pitch and timbre.  Then she lifts her stethoscope and listens to your heartbeat and respirations.  This tells volumes about the rhythm of your overall health.

When we are in a state of health and wellness, as opposed to dis-ease, our breathing is rhythmic and deep, fully oxygenating our blood.  When we are not well, breathing is often shallow and erratic.  This causes the heartbeat to respond accordingly and have a more rapid and sometimes erratic beat.

The rhythms of the body represent and predict the overall state of health.  Having a steady, predictable beat in music then allows you to consciously deviate from that beat/pulse but always return to the steady beat.  When students are taught to understand how the basic pulse in music is created, divided and subdivided, they can choose to deviate from that beat/pulse in order to create more exciting music!

Read this article!  I know you’ll enjoy it!



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Great Information on How Learning an instrument helps the brain

June 26th, 2015 · how the brain works, music and the brain

I am always fascinated about how music affects, shapes and even heals the brain.  Today, one of the wonderful sources of information about all of that is the famous “Ted Talks.”  It is common knowledge today that taking music lessons as a child or an adult helps the brain.  If your parents gave you lessons as a child, take every opportunity to thank them.  If they didn’t, rush to your local music store or college campus music department and find yourself a private teacher for whatever instrument you always wanted to play!  Keep your brain young and have some fun too!!

Here’s a TedTalk that will tell you more!  Enjoy!

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