The Brain and Music

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Music, Memory and the Brain

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments · 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 http://www.livescience.com/5327-music-memory-connection-brain.html .

Happy Listening!

 

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