Monday, October 20, 2008

This is your brain on music-Canadian Geographic, January 2006

A la Carte
This is your brain on music
Mapping mental activity reveals that music stimulates the brain the same way that food sex and drugs do.
Canadian Geographic, January 2006

This article found in Canadian Geographic, January 2006 is a good quick look at music and brain activity. Robert Zatoren neuroscientist at McGill notes that since everyone seems to react to music that must mean that we are “predisposed” to it. Various devices have been used to study the brain, like MRI, PET, etc...Listening to music revealing that the brain is not a series of sections working independently but rather an interconnected unit. More importantly music seems to happen in many areas of the brain. Some of the research is revealing musical dysfunction and the brains ability to adapt such as the example of the violinist and dystonia. Further, music is being used to study the brain in the hope of a greater understanding to how the brain works because music affects most of the brain. In addition the article provides diagrams briefly explaining IMAGING MUSIC, the fact that even though you sing a tune only in your head it still registers with the auditory cortex. Basic information on HEARING MUSIC and the brain processing elements of pitch volume and timbre and the Fact the PLAYING MUSIC uses more brain than many other activities are also in this article. Lastly the emotional reaction to music also registers in the brain, and in fact stimulates some of the same areas when one is hungry, sexual arousal, and drug addiction.


Although this article is basic, short, and lacking in great detail I think it is important. It touches on the some points that every person can relate to. The idea (and the research) that music and its effects on the brain could lead to advances in the treatment of such debilitating deceases such as Alzheimer’s. It alerts the general public to the possibility of additional hope in this kind of research. Further it is research that could lead to non-invasive treatments and possibly drug free treatment. In the word of Daniel Levitan during his lecture at U of T “ I don’t think your doctor will be telling you to take two Joni Mitchell’s and call him in the morning” but we could see the day when we could make use of certain frequencies to treat illness rather than surgery or intense drug therapy chock-full of side-effects . Also as a music educator I am elated that this kind of research could lead to solid information that indicates that the study of music may be considered preventative when looking at the likely hood of contacting certain diseases. In addition the fact that listening to music requires many areas of the brain is unique to music and that playing music uses more brain than many other activity are two key area music educator need to understand. It is widely accepted that if “you don’t use it you lose it” when it come to brain power make music a necessity in brain development.

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