Monday, December 1, 2008

Brain Waves

Reference: Gordon, H. (2008). Brain Waves. Retrieved November 25, 2008, Canadian Geographic.


Summary: This article discusses the effects of music on brain development and plasticity. Musical training in children enhances the activity of important neural systems. It talks about the areas of the brain that are stimulated while playing an instrument: auditory cortex, motor cortex, the cerebellum, and the corpus callosum. It also talks about the difference between musicians and non-musicians, stating that musicians use more “complex circuitry in both sides of the brain” compared to non-musicians. Third, the article talks about absolute pitch and tone deafness. Absolute pitch is a skill that is learned, while tone deafness is usually a hereditary condition. “Studies have shown that musical training must take place before age 15 for perfect pitch to develop.” What is interesting is that scientists are still unsure as to what part of the brain is responsible for the activity. The final topic of this article was the concept of a musical hallucination. A musical hallucination is when “music plays in your mind that can’t be consciously stopped, and the sound is so real that you think it is actually playing somewhere nearby.” Dr. Tim Griffiths, a neurologist at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne in England, suggests the hallucinations occur because the music-processing regions in the brain are looking for signals to interpret. Here is a direct quote from the article on musical hallucinations.


The beat goes on and on and on...
Musical hallucinations occur in about 1 in every 10,000 people, according to Warner and his colleague Victor Aziz, have looked at what people tend to hear during their hallucinations. Their study, involving 30 referrals from older people with musical hallucinations, found these songs to be the most common:

Abide with me (6 people)

Silent Night (2 people)

Away in a Manger (2 people)

The Old Rugged Cross (2 people)

Hark the Herald Angels Sing (2 people)

Good King Wenceslas

Jingle Bells

Love Divine

O Come all ye Faithful

How Great Thou art

On the Cross, Where I Found the Lord

Cwm Rhondda

Onward Christian Soldiers

The Welsh National anthem

The American National Anthem

I Love You

Three Blind Mice

Show me the Way to go Home

How much is that Doggy in the Window

Yes We have no Bananas

When I'm Cleaning Windows

Stars and Stripes

The Red Flag

   Roll out the Barrel”


Review: This article is well written. Terms are clearly defined and diagrams are used to help illustrate the different areas of the brain being used for different functions. Including a small clip from a study on musical hallucinations was quite interesting. Overall, I found it strange that the title of the article was Brain Waves, when the word waves was only used in the title of the article. I’m not entirely sure what the new title would be as there were so many topics addressed in this particular article.


Reflection: I found this article really neat for the section on musical hallucinations. I’ve had a similar experience to what they term a musical hallucination (imagining music in my head) but I would never go so far as to say I’ve had a musical hallucination.


The second aspect of this article that I found interesting was the fact that musicians who have had early training use their brains differently than non-musicians. The left hemisphere used for processing language and reasoning tasks, lead scientists to believe that musicians process musical information more analytically than those without training. The author states that “for these kinds of brain changes to occur, musical training must take place early on in a musician’s life. If it doesn’t occur until after puberty, there isn’t as much modification.” This information would be useful to share with administrations that are set on removing music specialists in the elementary schools because of funding cuts. 

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