Monday, October 13, 2008

A Composer's Approach to Music,Cognition and Emotion

A Composer’s Approach to Music, Cognition and Emotion By David Keane
From the Musical Quarterly, vol.68, no.3 (July 1982), pp.324-336
Published by: Oxford University Press
Located on Jstor
Posted by Justine Butkovich

To begin his article Keane poses the question: “What makes a piece of music pleasurable and interesting?” This is a critical question each composer must keep in mind while composing even though no one really knows the answer, they must believe they do. He gets into some detail about how the proto musical exploration of a child is overwhelmed by language development and how the discouragement of useless noise hinders their free sound exploration. He disagrees with the way in which music is taught because music cannot be adequately represented by words. Many times throughout the article he mentions the antecedent and consequent aspect of music. He suggests that we are attached to this action in music because it reflects our natural rhythms, inhalation and exhalation, and birth and death. He concludes that the unconscious mind and the conscious mind are the two things that will decide for us what we like and what we don’t like to listen to. The two aspects of music that draw our attention are cognitive (interestingness) and sensory (pleasantness) attractants. He concludes that in order to create a piece that people will enjoy; the cognitive attraction of the piece must reach not only the unconscious but also the conscious mind.

This article was very interesting to read as it had many facets to it. I didn’t totally understand why he took the path he took to arrive at his conclusion; a lot of it had nothing to do with what makes a piece pleasurable or not. As I read through the article I noticed many fascinating subjects I would love to delve into further such as: proto musical exploration, the instruction of music and the conscious and even more interesting the unconscious mind. I am very curious about the effects music has on children and how what we are surrounded with influences our taste for art and music. I also find it so interesting to read that the learning of language can discourage our exploration of sounds as a young child. Is Keane suggesting that we shouldn’t push our children to learn how to talk too soon? Then maybe we should encourage them to sing first and then learn how to talk. I like that idea! I thought what Keane suggested about the rigidity and impediment on personal exploration is a topic that could be discussed quite deeply. I agree that music can’t be adequately represented by words and or is misrepresented by words often. I think we need to do more listening than talking and more feeling than knowing. We can do all the research and talk about what needs to happen in order to perform a piece effectively but if we don’t hear what we feel and feel what we hear then something significant is missing. Like Keane suggests, this comes from within and we need to take the time by ourselves to discover this truth in music making. This reminds me of an old saying, “the more you learn the less you know.” When you think about this statement it is so true. Kids make decisions based on their feelings rather than on an intellectual impulse because they have not been conditioned yet by society to do what is supposedly “correct.” I can recall myself as a 10-year-old child having some advanced musical instincts that no one taught me. I just followed what I felt and was probably influenced by the classical music my parents played often and the more mature pop music my older siblings listened to as well. I started to write songs all by myself without any one putting this idea in my head, this is just what started to happen. I was left alone to discover what I had inside of me and it just poured out for years. I agree that we don’t always need to be taught something we already know, we just have to want to discover for ourselves what is inside of us. The unconscious mind is something that is very hard to understand and in my opinion is so hard to tap into when we have such a strong conscious mind. Fortunately, music is one of the only things in the world that can break through our complex conscious mind and reach into our unconscious mind. Like Keane suggests, pleasant music isn’t enough for our complex mind, we need music that is interesting and I think that is why we keep listening to music and why it will never grow old. There are so many aspects of music that we just can’t get enough of and that’s what keeps our mind interested and our subconscious satisfied.

Article 1-Creating Creativity with Music Article 2- Arts Education the Brain, Music and theatre

University of Toronto
Course: MUS 2122H: Music and the Brain - Fall 2008
Instructor: Dr. Lee Bartel
Student: Maddie

Portfolio: reference, review, reflect and report.


Article 1 Creating Creativity with Music
by Norman M. Weinberger, University of California
Volume V, Issue 2, Spring 1998

Article 2 Arts Education, The Brain, and Language (Scarborough Group, 2008)
by Kevin Niall Dunbar, Ph.D.
University of Toronto, at Scarborough


Article 1

Creating Creativity with Music
by Norman M. Weinberger, 1998

In this article, Norman M. Weinberger sets out to demonstrate how creativity can be measured objectively and how musical training can enhance intellectual creativity in general.

He begins by explaining how “the nature of creativity is a topic of intense current interest and also of great debate as many often ask if in fact creativity can be subject to scientific inquiry being its subjective nature?”

Weinberger then points out that different approaches to directly measure creativity have been developed over the years by individuals such as Guildford, Torrance and Amabile, each one having definite factors (or desirable characteristics) to evaluate creativity.

1- Guildford:
· Guildord’s “Unusual Uses” Tests
i. Ex: What are unusual uses for a brick? or What if no one could sleep?
2- Torrance:
· Torrance’s Tests of Creative Abilities
i. Ex: Sketch as many objects as possible given a set of blank circles.

3- Amabile:
· She added the collective judgments of widely regarded experts within the field in question to definite factors as: novel use of materials, novel ideas.

While various studies continue to dispute about how to best measure the highly desirable characteristics of creativity, Weinberger points out that other “controlled studies with well-reasoned arguments and not just anecdotal reports” have sought out to enhance creative thinking.

Among these, although few are published, are studies attempting to determine whether “music education affects measures of general creativity”. In other words, can music truly enhance creativity, as in expanding one’s intellectual boundaries?

Study 1- Simpson’s doctoral dissertation (unpublished), 1969.
· 173 high school music students and 45 non-music students.
· Tests devised by Guildford.
· Music students scored more highly than did non-music students on several measures of creativity.
· The findings are correlative (show a significant relationship between music and creativity), yet whether or not music education caused creativity scores to be enhanced cannot be determined from this report.

Study 2- Vaughn and Myers, 1971.
What is the necessary duration of music education to enhance creativity?
· Group: 4th and 5th graders.
· Created a special music program:
o Structured listening.
o Did not learn to play an instrument.
o Twice a week for three months.
· No differences found compared to a control class.

Study 3- Wolff (unpublished), 1979.
What is the youngest age at which music can increase creativity?
· 30 minutes of daily music instruction for an entire year, on first graders.
· At the beginning and end of the study, all students were tested on the Torrance tests of creative thinking and Purdue Perceptual.
· Music students exhibited significant increases in creativity.
· They also developed a significant increase in perceptual-motor skills.
· This study indicates that the creativity of children as young as first graders can be enhanced by music education, apparently if it is a sustained part of the curriculum rather than as a periodic addition to the school day for a few months.

Study 4- Magda Kalmar
What is the effect of music instruction on pre-school children of three and four years of age?
· A program was developed for a 3-year period.
· The music students scored higher than a non-treatment control class in creativity.
· They also had higher levels of ABSTRACTION and also showed GREATER CREATIVITY IN IMPROVISED PUPPET-PLAY.
· An additional benefit was better motor development.
· There were not yearly assessments therefore the exact age at which music was effective cannot be determined.
*Based on Wolff’s findings, it is unlikely that effects would require three years.

Studies 5 & 6- Kent State University
Measured the effects of music on the creativity of groups of high school and university students.
· This study determined the relationship between creativity and the total amount of music education, which was as high as more than 10 years.
· Higher creativity scores in music majors than non-music majors.
· These are correlative findings; no causal relationship can be inferred from these data.
· They discovered that students with more than 10 years of music education exhibited significantly greater creativity than those with less than 10 years of experience. These findings are quite consistent with the idea that creativity increases as a function of the amount of music education.

Study 7 -Hamann et al
Measured the effects of music on the creativity of high school students, whose experiences included theatrical and visual arts.
· Music students exhibit greater creativity than non-music students.
· Theatre students also scored significantly higher.
· Again, the issue of possible causality was approached by determining the relationship between length of music education and creativity scores, based on the number of academic units of music classes.
· A statistically significant relationship was observed; the greater the number of units, the greater the creativity scores.

From these studies, Weinberger concludes that the findings:

· Provide a solid support for the claim that music can be an effective means of increasing one’s creativity.
· Demonstrate increases in perceptual motor skills and in higher levels of abstraction.
· Demonstrate that active music making is more effective than passive music experience.

Article 2

Arts Education, The Brain, and Language (Scarborough group- 2008)
by Kevin Niall Dunbar, Ph.D.
University of Toronto, at Scarborough

In his research, Dunbar set out to bring forth a study that would “test specific hypothesis instead of vague and general claims about the effects of a performing arts education”. In doing so, he investigated two main areas.

He set out to determine whether there are “cognitive differences” between performing arts students in music and in theatre and non-performing arts students and to discover what the brain-based differences are that underlie the cognitive difference.

This was done by investigating performance on a variety of reasoning tasks such as generating novel and creative concepts, and being able to map information from one context to another, very different, context. This is known as transfer.

In doing so, he would discover whether education in the performing arts influences “abstract reasoning ability” and do those students in arts performance reason differently from non-arts students.

He also investigated whether there were differences in brain activity patterns of those students who were exposed to performing arts education and those who were not by using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). In doing so, he would see if there were posited specific neural mechanisms that might be involved in these improvements, if any.

He set out to determine whether arts students are intrinsically different from non-arts students by comparing performing-arts students’ genetic makeup to non-performing arts students’ genetic makeup. That is, are there differences due to underlying genetic differences that predispose students to prefer and chose the performing arts rather than other areas of education.

Overall, there are some differences at both the behavioural and genetic levels.

At the neural level, differences were found between the performing arts students and non-performing arts students in first year.
In particular, there were differences in left hemisphere frontal lobe activation that are consistent with the hypothesis that the performing arts students are more likely to be engaged in the symbolic retrieval than on-performing arts students
Yet in third year when the researchers modified the uses of objects tasks, they found no differences in brain activation between the performing arts students and the non-performing arts students. This indicates that it is in the generation of novel ideas, and not the responding to novel ideas. that is the difference between the two groups.
The genetic data was not analysed in this article.


It is quite interesting to note how the results of the studies presented in Article 1 and Article 2 point out that:
There is a positive relationship between music education and enhanced creativity.
There are “cognitive differences” between performing arts students in music and in theatre and non-performing arts students.
Education in the performing arts, whether music or theatre, impact our higher levels of abstraction reasoning ability and develop a significant increase in perceptual motor skills.

I was especially delighted to read how researchers in 1979 were able to show that the sooner we introduce music lessons to children (as early as grade 1), the more we can reap the true benefits of music. As neuroscience research teaches us today, the first six years of our life are critical because the brain is shaping neuronal networks involved in emotion and cognition.

Furthermore, I was also pleased to note how the studies proved that, once again, if we are to reap the true benefits of music, it cannot come by introducing music lessons once or twice a week, it has to be a sustained part of the curriculum.

OH, HOW I WISH these studies had been available when I was in primary school. Music lessons or art lessons in the mid 60’s were reserved for Friday afternoons, but only IF the class had been on good behaviour all week or IF teachers hadn’t decided that we had more important things to do. Yes, back then, art was definitely perceived as a frivolous activity PERMITTED only on Friday afternoon as a reward for having worked hard all week!!!.

With this image in mind, I decided to once again review both articles, as I asked myself what has really changed for music and the arts in education in the past 10 years, the time lapse between publication of the 2 studies. How are we using the beneficial findings from these studies in our educational system?

I asked these questions because isn’t true that the choices we allow our educational system to make for us are the ones that shape the minds of our kids, which in turn define their perception of the world, their values, their outlook and even their cognitive and emotional development. So what exactly am I supporting with regards to arts in this case, music and theatre, in our educational setting?

Upon returning to the articles, it became clear that one of the apparent changes since 1979 are the tools we are using to evaluate our research findings. In the 1998 article, no mention is made of any devices to measure the results of the tests administered. One can only assume that Weinberger proceeded by analyzing the verbal or written data given by the candidates’ responses. On the other hand, in the 2008 study, it is clear that Dunbar measured and analyzed his findings by using the latest technology, as in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which allows us to peek into a human brain and observe its activity as the subject performs psychological tasks or has certain experiences.

What an exciting change! Our new and much more sophisticated technologies are enabling us to study normal human brain function (specific mental processes function), which can offer a new level of understanding of the relation of the human brain to the human mind.

So, how has this sophisticated technology helped us show that music and other artistic intelligences are as important in the shaping of our kids’ minds as math and science in our classroom?

As I carefully reviewed the two articles, I noted that in both instances, the authors still expressed how their study aimed to try to approach the arts, music and theatre, in an objective manner, so to have their results considered as serious scientific findings and not some subjective and vague assumption.

Weinberger asserted that “the nature of creativity is a topic of intense current interest and also of great debate as many often ask if in fact creativity can be subject to scientific inquiry being its subjective nature?” But she also added that the “results from these objective controlled studies with well-reasoned arguments and not just anecdotal reports, point out a positive relationship between music education and enhanced creativity.” Dunbar stated that his main goal was to try through his study to “test specific hypothesis instead of vague and general claims about the effects of a performing arts education”.

Therefore, in spite of the sophisticated technology made available to us, it appears that our view towards the value of art in our educational setting hasn’t changed that much. The Western scientific worldview still ascribes little value to the subjective experience of music or arts in general. If it can’t be quantified, measured and preferably organized into mathematical relationships that describe their regularities of behaviour in order to provide objective knowledge of the world, that information cannot be used as a basis of reliable description of phenomena.

Next, how have researchers in the artistic domain been responding to this present status?

To justify the value of music, the questions that researchers set out to answer in both studies aimed at showing what music (and theatre) can bring to other areas of our brain development such as higher levels of abstraction reasoning ability, increased perceptual motor skills, etc.

How sad is it that in 2008, one still has to consider all the other developmental benefits of music in order to create a more compelling argument for music to be part of our quantitative scientific world, let alone be part of our educational system?

Furthermore, how sad is it that in 2008, one still has to downplay the importance of music for the beauty and value it brings into our lives. After all, music only puts us in touch with our feelings and through our feelings, the self. But no, this is not important enough.

“Personally, I found all the hubbub a bit offensive (referring the governor of Georgia who appropriated funds to buy a Mozart CD for every newborn in Georgia, after hearing about the Mozart effect, which said that music listening claimed to improve your performance on spatial-reasoning tasks because the implication was that music should not be studied in and of itself, or for its own right, but only if it could help people to do better on other MORE IMPORTANT things. Think how absurd this would sound if we turned it inside out. If I claimed that studying mathematics helped musical ability, would policy makers start pumping money into math for that reason? Music has often been the poor stepchild of public schools, the first program to get cut when there are funding problems, and people frequently try to justify it in terms of its collateral benefits, rather than letting music exist for its own rewards.”
(This is your Brain on Music, Daniel J. Levitin, p. 226)

Now, after reflecting about what has changed for the arts in the past ten years according to these articles, I would like to rephrase my question. Why is change happening so slowly for the arts in the classroom? And since that technological change is moving so swiftly, one would have thought that it would have accelerated a shift in scientific perspectives towards music and the arts?

For this I am sad and become impatient, especially when I think about how our current science of quantities has given us the ability to produce enough goods to satisfy the needs of all of the planet’s inhabitants, though I believe a rapidly declining quality of life worldwide justifies my impatience. The present-day powerful alliance of science, technology and business which has created our present global culture and whose primary principles are based on prediction, control, innovation, management and expansion is not working out quite as predicted.

For as much as we have the means to liberate all human beings from hunger and poverty with the production of wealth and goods achieved through the application of quantitative scientific knowledge, a good portion of the world’s population still lives in hunger and poverty. Our agricultural land is being destroyed at a very quick pace. Global warming, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is affecting the atmosphere. The list is endless.

Rationality and power cannot be the only path to understanding nature as predicted by Francis Bacon, because too many signs are showing us that our quantitative science is becoming more and more powerless to achieve the stability and security it set out to do. This is why I strongly believe that, as the quantitative scientific approach to knowledge was once in the shadow of the Church and the celestial Gods, qualitative science is now in the shadow of quantitative science, which in turn will open up new doors in the study of art and its subjective nature.

Unfortunately, this won’t come to fruition tomorrow, as these two articles have demonstrated, but several studies are moving in the right direction direction. Françoise Wemelsfelder’s research, for example, seeks to develop a “science of qualities”, a method of reaching a consensus about such evaluations that the scientific community previously regarded as beyond the scientific scope.

In conclusion, I only have one thing to say. It is very important that we concern ourselves with the kinds of minds we want our children to have and that perhaps artistic intelligence will rise in our value system much quicker if we ask ourselves: WHAT KINDS OF MINDS WILL OUR CHILDREN NEED IF THEY ARE TO THRIVE IN THE FORTHCOMING ERAS???!!! The answer cannot surely solely rely on the scientific quantitative mind, don’t you think?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Developmental Differences in Adolescents

Review: by Janet Spring
Schmithorst, V.J., Holland, S.K., Dardzinski, B.J. (2008). Developmental differences in
white matter architecture between boys and girls, Human Brain Mapping, 29: 696 - 710

In the research study of Schmithorst, Holland, Dardzinski (2008), they propose that the adolescent brain must be investigated and analyzed in relation to gender, where “sex differences must be taken into account” to retrieve data that explains the differences in structure of the brain of boys versus girls. The study begins with a thorough literature review presenting research findings to date, on the developmental differences in brain structure between boys and girls as well as in adult males and females. During adolescence, from ages eight to eighteen years of age, boys and girls undergo a great change in brain development as they reach their adult years. It is therefore important for researchers to investigate these differences and map these changes, for many questions in future may be answered that deal with this significant stage in child development.

Since the development of the MRI, researchers have been able to examine the human brain in much greater detail. The investigation of these changes has demonstrated that the brain of the adolescent boy undergoes an increased development in white matter than girls, and that during a male’s lifespan, they have “greater total cerebral volume as well as total gray and total white matter volumes than girls” (p. 696). However, in terms of total relative volume, the brain of the adult female contains greater gray matter area, where the adult male has a greater volume of white matter. Adolescence is therefore a time in which the brain functions and areas make marked changes. The adolescent brain is a work in progress where it is maturing to its adult state. Hence marked changes must occur in their attitudes, learning abilities and behaviour in general.

To examine the obvious changes in the adolescent brain, the MRI has proven to be a very useful tool, as well as the DTI, or the diffusion tensor imaging technique. This measures the FA, or functional anisotropy, and the MD; the mean diffusivity. Anisotropy describes a physical function that shows a variance in different areas, where the diffusivity measures the characteristics of diffusion in a region. The sexual dimorphic measurements, or the variance of different forms in the brains of boys versus girls, demonstrate marked changes and variances in boys which do not occur in girls. Subcortical gray matter in boys is larger than girls, and there is also an increase in the central white matter in boys. As the adolescent boy matures, the study of De Bellis et al. ( 2001) has found that there is a greater increase of “normalized white matter volume, and greater rates of decrease with age of normalized gray matter volume, relative to girls between the ages of 7 – 17” (p. 697). Also, in the left inferior frontal gyrus, “absolute white matter volume was shown to increase in boys, but not in girls, and the relative gray matter volume of the left inferior frontal gyrus remained larger in boys” (p. 697). This evidence was the result of another study of Blanton et al, (2004).

With the information gathered to this point, the authors predict that there is a marked difference in brain anisotropy of boys versus girls, and these differences can be pinpointed with further DTI tests. Previous studies have demonstrated that boys “possess a greater number of neurons and fewer neuronal processes with greater absolute and relative white matter volume available for the inter-neuronal connections” (p. 697). The authors therefore hypothesize that the male brain may contain “fewer, thicker, more organized and possibly more myelinated fibers, with females possessing more crossing fiber tracts” (p. 697). They also predict that the male adolescent brain is reorganizing the neural connections as it reduces the gray matter area, while it contains a larger white matter area. There will perhaps be a significant difference displayed in boys as compared to girls. Can these variations or anisotropy, be responsible for the differences in cognitive functions between boys and girls?

For the study, 106 children were recruited through advertisements in local clinics, radio and television ads. All children received a neurological examination as well as a Wechsler Intelligence test and were not accepted for the study if they did not maintain a C average in school or were under medical treatment for any neurological or psychiatric conditions. The MRI and DTI data was collected for approximately three years, measuring the FA or fractional anisotropy between boys and girls in six areas of the brain and the MD or mean diffusivity between boys and girls in five areas of the brain. These were measured from the early to the later adolescent years. Results were shown in table form, demonstrating the significant differences in age, sex and areas of the brain. The data determines that there are “developmental differences in white matter microstructure between girls and boys” and this difference “may be sexually dimorphic” (p. 707). The researchers therefore conclude that the study of these developmental differences must be examined in boys and girls separately, for the gender of the participant must be taken into account in “all DTI developmental studies” (p. 707).

The study resulted in interesting evidence that points to the fact that the differences in fractional anisotropy could be the “result of differences in fiber organization, but could also be related to myelination, fiber density, axonal diameter, and ratio of intracellular/extracellular space” (p. 704). Differences in the mean diffusivity “relate to fiber density, but are also affected by differences in axonal diameter and myelination” (p. 704). The female data identifies that the splenium of the corpus callosum experienced more FA than boys and that boys are “catching up to girls later in development” (p. 704) where the splenium area is developing later than in girls. White matter regions in boys show greater FA than girls across all age ranges and the white matter in girls more constrained. Therefore they hypothesize that “the more constrained white matter space, lower degree of fiber density, and greater dependence on intra- and inter-hemispheric connectivity in females necessitates increased crossing of white matter fiber tracts, resulting in lower FA values” (p. 705).

Other conclusions can be drawn that demonstrate a difference between boys and girls where the left inferior frontal gyrus contains a higher gray matter volume in boys, and where the relative gray matter decreases slightly in boys as they approach adulthood. To correlate with the fact that language development in boys is delayed as compared to girls, the results of the study demonstrate “continued maturation of left frontal white matter in boys, which may relate to continuing myelination” (p. 706). All data therefore “point to the importance of taking sex differences into account in developmental DTI studies”.

This study as well as previous studies on childhood sex differences in the brain has far reaching implications for educators who work with this interesting group of students. As boys mature physically at a different rate from girls, so do their brain functions and specific areas of the brain that control their abilities to learn and understand concepts in varying subjects. While the adolescent is often treated the same in the learning environment regardless of gender, mistakes may be made in what should be expected of them. If brain functioning is at different levels in boys versus girls, can they be evaluated the same? Should we therefore teach adolescent girls differently from adolescent boys and develop different curricula to evoke better results? Should they be segregated and taught in girls’ only and boys’ only schools? Regardless, educators need to be educated and trained accordingly so that they possess the expertise to teach the adolescent whose brain is most certainly developing at a different rate and is diverse in its physical structure.

Smartie-Pants Musicians

Musicians Use Both Sides Of Their Brains More Frequently Than Average People. Vanderbilt University (2008, October 3). ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2008

Researchers at Vanderbilt University conducted two experiments with 20 classical music students from Vanderbilt Blair School of Music and 20 non-musicians from a Vanderbilt introductory psychology course, to determine whether musicians use divergent thinking, as well as use both the left and right sides of the frontal cortex more effectively than the average person.
In the first experiment, subjects were shown a variety of household objects and asked to make up new functions for the objects. The musicians suggested more novel uses for the household objects than did the non-musicians. The subjects were also given a word association test, to which the musicians gave more correct responses. The results of this experiment suggest that musicians do use divergent thinking more effectively.
In the second experiment, the two groups were again asked to identify new uses for everyday objects as well as to perform a basic control task while the activity in their pre-frontal lobes was monitored using near-infrared spectroscopy. The musician had greater activity in both sides of the frontal lobes, indicating a qualitative difference in how they think.
Researchers also found that, overall, the musicians had higher IQ scores than the non-musicians.

To address the last point first, I wonder if it's possible that it is not the intensive musical training that elevates a musician's IQ score? Perhaps people with higher IQs gravitate toward music as a profession? Just a thought ...

This study is, of course, intensely interesting for many of us who are trained musicians in that it confirms every delusion of grandeur we may already entertain.

Seriously though, as the study focused on instrumentalists because they read music (associated with the left-hemisphere / language area) and simultaneously interpret it (associated with right hemisphere) I wonder what a similar study would find if it focused on classical singers as compared to both non-musicians and instrumentalists? I wonder because not only is a classical singer reading and interpreting music, they are (in the case of an opera singer) also retrieving the music from memory, using a language other than their own (usually), remembering and moving to stage blocking while using props, watching a conductor for cues, listening for a prompter (if necessary), singing and reacting to all the other singers on the stage who are also doing all of these things at once. Is it possible that singers use even more thought/brain process than other musicians?

by Shannon Coates

Music & Recovery from Stroke

'Music Therapy Helps Patients Recover Brain Function Following Stroke'
by David Gutierrez
siting study by Särkämö, T., Tervaniemi, M., Laitinen, S., Forsblom, A., Soinila, S., Mikkonen, M., Autti, T., Silvennoinen, H.M., Erkkilä, J., Laine, M., Peretz, I., & Hietanen, M.
Music listening enhances cognitive recovery and mood after middle cerebral artery stroke. Brain, 2008, 131, 866-876.
Retrieved 11 October 2008

Researchers from the Cognitive Brain Research Unit at the University of Helsinki, Finland studied 54 people under the age of 76 who had suffered a stroke of the middle cerebral artery in either side of the brain. Participants in the study were randomly assigned to one of three groups:
a) listen to music of their choice for at least one hour per day
b) listen to self-selected audio book for at least one hour per day
c) no auditory stimulation.

Verbal memory scores of those in group a) improved 60 percent after three months compared with only 18 percent in group b) and 29 percent in group c). Other significant findings: Those in group a) improved their ability to focus by a greater margin than those in the other two groups, and showed less depression and confusion.

After six months, the differences in improvement between the three groups was similar.

Although this article does not draw a direct parallel between physical recuperation and emotional well-being, (nor, I imagine does the original study) there is a lot of anecdotal evidence (and possibly scientific evidence as well) to connect the emotional health of a patient with his or her physical recovery. Any patient who experiences less confusion, memory loss and depression during recuperation is probably a better candidate for return to health than those who suffer from confusion, memory loss and depression. The results of this study are exciting in that they present the possibility that music may have an effect on the brain such that it helps to restore memory and ability to focus, which in turn probably increases positive emotions. Patients with the emotional will to recover will do so more quickly, not only emotionally but physically. One thing's for certain: should I or someone I know suffer a stroke, you can rest assured there will be music playing throughout their recovery.

by Shannon Coates