The Brain and Music

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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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Music, Memory and the Brain

May 26th, 2015 · how the brain works, music and alzheimer, music and the brain

As we age, music from our past means more and more to us.  Part of that is the fact that we know more and more music and our inner library of “oldies” keeps growing and expanding.  Have you ever heard a piece of music that you haven’t heard in years and years, or even decades?  Have you experienced a flood of visual images; faces, places, conversations, all triggered by that snippet of music?  Music is so powerful in its ability to bring back memories that even Alzheimer’s patients who don’t recognize family members or friends, can still hear a piece of music from their “Courting Years” and respond positively to that music, sing along, and possibly even reminisce awhile!  It is quite dramatic to see this happen with a patient who has been non-verbal perhaps for months.

But even if there is not a disease process going on, music from our past can certainly provide a lot of pleasure and wonderful memories for us; memories that might have been long-forgotten.  Whether you’re feeling nostalgic or maybe blue or depressed, music is a quick and simple way to change that, at least temporarily!

Recently a study was published, looking at the parts of the brain that are affected by music from your past and the memories that are brought forth.  Here’s what they found:

“Test subjects went under an fMRI brain scanner and listened to 30 different songs randomly chosen from the Billboard “Top 100” music charts from years when the subjects would have been 8 to 18 years old. They signaled researchers when a certain 30-second music sample triggered any autobiographical memory, as opposed to just being a familiar or unfamiliar song.

“This is the first study using music to look at [the neural correlates of] autobiographical memory,” Janata told LiveScience. His full study is detailed online this week in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

The students also filled out the details of their memories in a survey immediately following the MRI session, explaining the content and clarity of their recollections. Most recognized about 17 out of 30 music samples on average, with about 13 having moderate or strong links with a memory from their lives.

Janata saw that tunes linked to the strongest self-reported memories triggered the most vivid and emotion-filled responses – findings corroborated by the brain scan showing spikes in mental activity within the medial prefrontal cortex.

The brain region responded quickly to music signature and timescale, but also reacted overall when a tune was autobiographically relevant. Furthermore, music tracking activity in the brain was stronger during more powerful autobiographical memories.

This latest research could explain why even Alzheimer’s patients who endure increasing memory loss can still recall songs from their distant past.”  To see the entire article, go to .

Happy Listening!


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