Science Reveals How Music Develops the Brain

By Robin Migdol and Max de Leve

SOUND SCIENCE: Listening to music makes you smarter.

Neuroscientists are developing exciting new understandings of how music develops our brains. We’re rapidly learning that listening to music can raise your IQ, improve your emotional development, and even physically strengthen your brain. Despite the popular assumption that right brain activities are distinct and even opposite from left brain activities, researchers have found correlations between brain areas stimulated by music and those stimulated  by mathematics. These findings should profoundly affect the debates on how and why to fund music education in the public schools.

One takeaway is that music is so powerful partly because the brain uses not one but many parts to process it. Music dances across our neurons, recruits the auditory cortex to interpret the sound, the cerebellum for the beat — the same neural circuitry we use for language — and then integrates it all smoothly.

Click on the links below, featuring some of the latest academic research, which will stimulate your own neurons.

Contributing editor: Edward Lifson / Illustration above: Sean Kelly

The Beatles’ Surprising Contribution To Brain Science
Language, Music, Syntax, and the Brain
Music Lessons Enhance IQ
Synesthesia: Is F-Sharp Colored Violet?
Music’s and Language’s Common Evolutionary Roots Lie in Emotion
Musical Instrument Practice Enhances Children’s Verbal and Nonverbal Reasoning
Brain Indices of Musical Processing: Nonmusicians are “Musical”
A Brain for Rhythm
Current Advances in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Music

Above: The Society for Music Perception and Cognition, is dedicated to the study of the correlations between behavior, academics, IQ and music.

Regions of the brain that process music:

FRONTAL BRODMANN AREAS: From EEGs of saxophonists watching a recording of their own playing, scientists found that the brain responded with empathy when musicians watched themselves.

MEDIAL PREFONTAL CORTEX BRAIN STEM, AUDIOTORY CORTEX: Musical training helps people with hearing loss understand speech in noisy situations.

DOPAMINE RELEASE: Music is treated as a pleasurable reward by the brain, leading to the release of dopamine which causes chills.
AUDITORY BRAINSTEM: Children with dyslexia who listened to music during school demonstrated improved phonetic awareness and reading skills

SUPPLEMENTARY MOTOR AREA, MID-PREMOTOR CORTEX (PMC), CEREBELLUM: Listening to musical rhythms recruits motor regions of the brain. Observation of PMC shows that there is a connection between sound and movement.
PARALIMBIC BRAIN REGIONS: Listening to varying degrees of dissonance associated with pleasant and unpleasant music activates neural mechanisms connected to pleasant and unpleasant emotions .
AUDITORY CORTEX: Neuroplasticity. Pitch training can “remodel” the auditory cortex; the experience of learning music can affect the development of the brain.
MEDIAL PREFRONTAL CORTEX (self-expression) activity goes up, LATERAL PREFONTAL CORTEX (self monitoring) goes down, when improvising versus playing memorized music, as described below by Charles Limb, Associate Professor, Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins; and Faculty, Peabody Conservatory of Music.

 

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