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New studies show factors responsible for enhanced response to music

In new studies, scientists are uncovering the factors responsible for an enhanced brain electrical response to music; the effects on the brain of growing up in a musical or non-musical environment; and which areas of the brain process different aspects of music including speaking and singing. One study finds that positive emotions induced by pleasant music can have an analgesic effect on people, pointing to a possible role for music in pain management therapy.

"Music touches almost every cognitive ability that neuroscientists are interested in -- not only the obvious auditory and motor systems involved in perceiving and playing music, but also multisensory interactions, memory, learning, attention, planning, creativity and emotion," says Robert Zatorre, PhD, of the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Researchers are investigating many different aspects of music and its effect on the brain. A great deal of work has already been done to characterize the brain's response to musical patterns, but now researchers are beginning to focus on more complex issues, such as how the patterns may change as a function of a person's knowledge or training in music. "Among the most promising research is that involving the development of musical abilities, because this will tell scientists how the nervous system adapts to influences from the environment," says Zatorre.

"In turn, the way that training and learning interact with genetic factors that predispose certain neural traits to develop will clearly be a source of much interest for future study." All of this research may one day lead to new rehabilitation therapies for people recovering from stroke or neurological disorders--and to more effective methods of educating children.

Young children, especially those who grow up in homes where music is often heard, can develop an enhanced brain response to musical stimuli -- a response characteristic of other children about two years older, according to a r
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Contact: Dawn McCoy
dawn@sfn.org
202-462-6688
Society for Neuroscience
10-Nov-2003


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