Listen to music - Not just to lighten your mood, but also to light your brain

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A group of researchers from Finland have developed an innovative method that showcases brain’s responses to different aspects of music, such as rhythm, tonality and timbre (sound color) in a realistic listening situation. This study reveals how wide networks in the brain, including those responsible for motor actions, emotions, creativity etc. get activated while listening to music. This method helps us delve into the complex dynamics of the brain networks and how music can affect us. The study was published in the journal NeuroImage.  

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the research team, led by Dr. Vinoo Alluri from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, recorded the brain responses of individuals who were listening to a piece of modern Argentinian tango.  The musical content of the tango was then analyzed using sophisticated computer algorithms. What made this study different from similar studies is that the individuals were listening to real music rather than artificially constructed music-like sound stimuli.

The research shows that not only the auditory areas of the brain but also other large-scale neural networks was employed for listening to music.  For e.g. the processing of musical pulses were carried out with the aid of motor areas in the brain thus denoting the connection between music and movement. “Our results show for the first time how different musical features activate emotional, motor and creative areas of the brain,” says Prof. Petri Toiviainen from the University of Jyväskylä. “We believe that our method provides more reliable knowledge about music processing in the brain than the more conventional methods.

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