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Neuroscience and Music: Early music lessons highly recommended

July 22nd, 2014 · how the brain works, music and the brain

The 90's were closed the Era of the Brain.  Many people believed that the brain was the last unexplored frontier and today, in 2014, people are still learning fascinating and very useful things about how music affects the brain.  For years, people have known that when little children are exposed to music, especially music lessons, they seem to do better academically for the rest of their school lives.  Studying music helps to organize the brain and encourages logical and relational thinking.  Once these skills are begun, then the individual can break away knowledgeably and begin to improvise, compose their own music and practice, practice, practice. Today, a friend sent me a new article about all of this, and I wanted to share it with my readers! "How Playing Music Affects the Developing Brain"   | , WBUR, Boston Remember “Mozart Makes You Smarter”? A 1993 study of college students showed them performing better on spatial reasoning tests after listening to a Mozart sonata. That led to claims that listening to Mozart temporarily increases IQs — and to a raft of products purporting to provide all sorts of benefits to the brain. In 1998, Zell Miller, then the governor of Georgia, even proposed providing every newborn in his state with a CD of classical music. But subsequent research has cast doubt on the claims. Ani Patel, an associate professor of psychology at Tufts University and the author of “Music, Language, and the Brain,” says that while listening to music can be relaxing and contemplative, the idea that simply plugging in your iPod is going to make you more intelligent doesn’t quite hold up to scientific scrutiny. “On the other hand,” Patel says, “there’s now a growing body of work that suggests that actually learning to play a musical instrument does have impacts on other abilities.” These include speech perception, the ability to understand emotions in the voice and the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Patel says this is a relatively new field of scientific study. “The whole field of music neuroscience really began to take off around 2000,” he says. “These studies where we take people, often children, and give them training in music and then measure how their cognition changes and how their brain changes both in terms of its processing [and] its structure, are very few and still just emerging.” Patel says that music neuroscience, which draws on cognitive science, music education and neuroscience, can help answer basic questions about the workings of the human brain. “How do we process sequences with complex hierarchical structure and make sense of them?” he asks. “How do we integrate sensation and action? How do we remember long and difficult sequences of information? These are fundamental neuroscience questions, and music can help us answer some of these questions, because it’s in some ways simpler than language, but it’s still of sufficient complexity that it can address these very deep and important aspects of human brain function.” In addition, Patel says music neuroscience research has important implications about the role of music in the lives of young children. “If we know how and why music changes the brain in ways that affect other cognitive abilities,” he says, “this could have a real impact on the value we put on it as an activity in the schools, not to mention all the impact it has on emotional development, emotional maturity, social skills, stick-to-itiveness, things we typically don’t measure in school but which are hugely important in a child’s ultimate success.”

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How Music Affects the Brain

June 9th, 2014 · how the brain works, music and the brain

We all know that music makes us feel good.  Sometimes it makes us feel REALLY good, even ecstatic!  Music is one of the greatest, totally free gifts that God has given us, but have you ever wondered what actually goes on in your brain to make you feel so fantastic??  Here's a wonderful explanation that was originally found at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/276595.php  Enjoy!! Sometimes, watching a musician perform live can make us mere listeners feel like they have superpowers. Now, new research suggests brief musical training increases blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain, but there are other benefits for listeners, too. Researchers from the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool in the UK conducted two different studies to investigate how musical training affects the flow of blood to the brain. They say their findings, which they presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Birmingham, UK, suggest the areas in charge of music and language share common pathways in the brain. In early 2014, Medical News Today reported on a study that revealed brain scans of jazz musicians showed similarities between language and music. Researchers from that study said the brain likely uses its syntactic regions to process all communication - whether spoken or through music. In the first of two studies, student Amy Spray and her mentor, Dr. G. Meyer, looked for brain activity patterns in 14 musicians and nine non-musicians while they engaged in music and word generation assignments. The team found that brain patterns for the musicians were similar in both tasks, whereas, for the non-musicians, this was not the case.
Lady playing violin Musical training causes a change in the cognitive mechanisms used for music perception, and these are usually used in processing language, researchers say.
In the second study, the investigators measured brain activity patterns in a different group of non-musicians who took part in word generation and music perception tasks. After initial measurements were taken, the team then took measurements once the participants had received 30 minutes of musical training. The musical training, say the researchers, consisted of learning to tap three polyrhythms - two or more rhythms not constructed from the same meter that are played at the same time - with their fingers. In the measurements taken before the training, the team observed that there were no significant brain activity patterns of correlation. However, after the musical training, they did find "significant similarities." "It was fascinating to see that the similarities in blood flow signatures could be brought about after just half an hour of simple musical training," says Spray. She concludes:
?"This suggests that the correlated brain patterns were the result of using areas thought to be involved in language processing. Therefore we can assume that musical training results in a rapid change in the cognitive mechanisms utilized for music perception and these shared mechanisms are usually employed for language." But music can do so much more, notes Michael Huckabee, professor and director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center Division of Physician Assistant Education. In an article about the benefits of music on human health, he writes: ?"Music does something beyond our understanding. We can call it an endorphin release or a distraction, but it goes much deeper than that. Somehow music just does us good. And the good it does was just proven to be better." He speaks of a finding from researchers in Taiwan, who recently reviewed over 360 published studies on music therapy and concluded the data from these studies suggest cancer patients who routinely listen to music exhibit significantly fewer symptoms of depression, pain, fatigue and anxiety.

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How can YOU use music to help your brain?

May 8th, 2014 · how the brain works, music and the brain

I think we all know that music makes us feel better.  Whether you're looking for energy, soothing, comforting or romance, music can definitely bring it!  But exactly HOW does music affect the brain?  And how can you use music more intentionally to benefit your brain, your mood, and your overall health? Dr. Daniel Levitin has done extensive work in this area and has written a best-selling music entitled "This is Your Brain on Music." "We're using music to better understand brain function in general," said Daniel Levitin, a prominent psychologist who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal. According to CNN reporter Elizabeth Landau,

"Listening to music feels good, but can that translate into physiological benefit? Levitin and colleagues published a meta-analysis of 400 studies in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, suggesting the answer is yes.

In one study reviewed, researchers studied patients who were about to undergo surgery. Participants were randomly assigned to either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs. Scientists tracked patient's ratings of their own anxiety, as well as the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

The results: The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs. Levitin cautioned that this is only one study, and more research needs to be done to confirm the results, but it points toward a powerful medicinal use for music.

"The promise here is that music is arguably less expensive than drugs, and it's easier on the body and it doesn't have side effects," Levitin said.

Levitin and colleagues also highlighted evidence that music is associated with immunoglobin A, an antibody linked to immunity, as well as higher counts of cells that fight germs and bacteria."

So what's next in this exciting field of the neuroscience of music?  Levitin reports "

The next frontier in the neuroscience of music is to look more carefully at which chemicals in the brain are involved in music listening and performing, Levitin said, and in which parts of the brain are they active.

Any given neurochemical can have different function depending on its area of the brain, he said. For instance, dopamine helps increase attention in the frontal lobes, but in the limbic system it is associated with pleasure.

By using music as a window into the function of a healthy brain, researchers may gain insights into a slew of neurological and psychiatric problems, he said.

"Knowing better how the brain is organized, how it functions, what chemical messengers are working and how they're working -- that will allow us to formulate treatments for people with brain injury, or to combat diseases or disorders or even psychiatric problems."

Do NOT overlook the power of music to improve your brain, your life, and your health!

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The Brain and “Falling in Love Music”

February 13th, 2014 · how the brain works, music and the brain

I don't know whether anyone has ever done a scientific study that looks in the brain of someone who is "falling in love" and listening to love songs, but I think many of us can imagine what it might look like!  Many studies have been done that look at the brain of people who are experiencing extreme pleasure, whether it's eating chocolate, having a sexual experience, or listening to/making favorite music! When we're in a state of infatuation, the world is rosy!  Life is good and music definitely serves to enhance that feeling!  What happens in the brain?  Probably something like this: The music in this video is from the current generation of young people, but in my day, listening to Elvis sing "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" or the music from "South Pacific" or "Camelot" I'm sure my brain was probably doing the same thing!  What is your brain doing this Valentine's Day?

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Music and Brain Injury: Proof is here again!

January 16th, 2014 · how the brain works, music and the brain

Brain injuries have always been with us.  Every year, thousands of brain injuries occur in the U.S. alone, but now scientists are discovering how powerful music can be in restoring memories for the survivors of brain injury.  Today, another study was published on some exciting findings! In the first study of its kind, two researchers have used popular music to help severely brain-injured patients recall personal memories. Amee Baird and Séverine Samson outline the results and conclusions of their pioneering research in the recent issue of the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.

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Although their study covered a small number of cases, it's the very first to examine 'music-evoked autobiographical memories' (MEAMs) in patients with acquired brain injuries (ABIs), rather than those who are healthy or suffer from Alzheimer's Disease. In their study, Baird and Samson played extracts from 'Billboard Hot 100' number-one songs in random order to five patients. The songs, taken from the whole of the patient's lifespan from age five, were also played to five control subjects with no brain injury. All were asked to record how familiar they were with a given song, whether they liked it, and what memories it invoked. Doctors Baird and Samson found that the frequency of recorded MEAMs was similar for patients (38%-71%) and controls (48%-71%). Only one of the four ABI patients recorded no MEAMs. In fact, the highest number of MEAMs in the whole group was recorded by one of the ABI patients. In all those studied, the majority of MEAMs were of a person, people or a life period and were typically positive. Songs that evoked a memory were noted as more familiar and more liked than those that did not. As a potential tool for helping patients regain their memories, Baird and Samson conclude that: "Music was more efficient at evoking autobiographical memories than verbal prompts of the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI) across each life period, with a higher percentage of MEAMs for each life period compared with AMI scores." "The findings suggest that music is an effective stimulus for eliciting autobiographical memories and may be beneficial in the rehabilitation of autobiographical amnesia, but only in patients without a fundamental deficit in autobiographical recall memory and intact pitch perception." The authors hope that their ground-breaking work will encourage others to carry out further studies on MEAMs in larger ABI populations. They also call for further studies of both healthy people and those with other neurological conditions to learn more about the clear relationship between memory, music and emotion; they hope that one day we might truly "understand the mechanisms underlying the unique memory enhancing effect of music." Journal Reference:
  1. A. Baird, S. Samson. Music evoked autobiographical memory after severe acquired brain injury: Preliminary findings from a case series. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 2013; : 1 DOI: 10.1080/09602011.2013.858642

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