Neuroscience intro blurb

By Max de Leve

For all that we love the arts, we understand very little about why we are so drawn to them as a species. What are they good for? we ask. They don’t much help us eat, sleep, or reproduce, and yet for tens of thousands of years they have been a universal part of human society, indicating that they are as fundamental to us as those more obvious elements of survival. Even neuroscientists love talking about the arts: with the advent of machines that can look at, not only the structure, but even the real-time functioning of our brains, scientists have en masse taken the opportunity to look at the effects arts have on the brain.

Doing art, like most learned activities, changes the actual neural architecture of your brain via a process called neuroplasticity<\b>, much the same way that doing a sport causes your body to build the muscles you use in that sport. “Waste not, want not,” the brain repurposes and shapes itself in response to the activities you do. The same brain can be wired for chess or for a high score in Halo 4, depending on what you spend your time doing, and the more of the brain is utilized by an activity like art, the more of the brain is developed and changed by practicing that art

Music is one such art that has a completely transformative effect on the brain. It is not restricted to any one part of the brain, but dances across neurons, recruiting the auditory cortex<\b> for sound, the cerebellum<\b> for the beat, even the same neural circuitry we use for reading and language<\b>, all smoothly integrated into a global process by the connection the corpus collosum<\b> creates between the hemispheres

So what are the coolest things we’re finding out about what Bach and Beyonce do to our brains? Check it out:

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