Music and the Brain: Is There a Correlation?

Presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Birmingham, the research was conducted at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool. In these studies, music and language are shown to share the same pathways in the brain. Medical News Today had already reported a few months back that brain scans taken of jazz musicians demonstrated similarities between music and language. The team working on that study noted that the reason for this is because the brain processes communication the same way, whether spoken or through song.

Brain activity patterns were measured in fourteen musicians compared to nine people who were not musicians. Both groups of people performed musical and word generating tasks. Brain patterns were similar in musicians for both kinds of tasks, while they were different for non-musicians. A second study was conducted in which only non-musicians took part in musical and word generating tasks. The team calculated initial measurements and then retook them after the participants had received a half hour of musical training. Before the participants had done the training, there was no sign of correlation in brain pathways. After the training, researchers found “significant similarities” in brain pathways between music and language.

Student Ana Spray noted that it was remarkable to witness the rapid change in brain activity patterns after just a half hour of musical instruction. This study concludes that there is a form of change in cognition utilized specifically for music perception employed through language. In addition to the findings of this study, Professor Michael Huckabee at the University of Nebraska also stated that music can be used to cure a variety of ills. Listening to music has been known to release endorphins in the brain which provides a sense of happiness.

Professor Huckabee also mentioned findings in Taiwan, where researchers reviewed over 360 published music therapy studies and concluded that cancer patients who listen to music routinely experience much fewer instances of pain, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Huckabee then pointed out a patient with dementia who had been in a nursing home for ten years and “comes alive” every time he listens to music. As if these instances weren’t reason enough to include more music in our lives, Medical News Today published a story in 2013 about a study suggesting music training in childhood provides a boost to the brain in adulthood.

Author
Gary Starkman Dr. Starkman, a top Neurologist in NYC, is the Medical Director and founder of New York Neurology Associates. He is Board Certified in Neurology with a subspecialty certification in Pain Medicine.

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