Music May Increase Your Brain’s Blood Flow

music and the brain

While I typically blog about cancer, today we turn to music. Did you know that brief musical training can increase the blood flow in the left hemisphere of our brain? This suggests that the areas responsible for music and language share common brain pathways.

These is one of the findings of a study carried out by undergraduate student Amy Spray and Dr G Meyer from the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool (England) as part of a School of Psychology Summer Internship Scheme.They will present their research to the British Psychological Society annual conference today, Thursday 8 May 2014, hosted by the International Convention Centre in Birmingham.

Amy offers: “The areas of our brain that process music and language are thought to be shared and previous research has suggested that musical training can lead to the increased use of the left hemisphere of the brain. This study looked into the modulatory effects that musical training could have on the use of the different sides of the brain when performing music and language tasks.”

The Evidence: Two separate studies were undertaken. Study one involved looking for patterns of brain activity of 14 musicians and nine non-musicians while they participated in music and word generation tasks. The results showed that patterns in the musician’s brains were similar in both tasks but this was not the case for the non-musicians.

Study two involved measuring patterns of brain activity in a different group of participants (non-musicians) who took part in a word generation task and a music perception task. In this study the measurements were also taken again following half an hour’s musical training. The measurements of brain activity taken before the musical training* showed no significant pattern of correlation. However, following the training significant similarities were found.

To the authors, “it was fascinating to see that the similarities in blood flow signatures could be brought about after just half an hour of simple musical training. This suggests that the correlated brain patterns were the result of using areas thought to be involved in language processing. Therefore we can assume that musical training results in a rapid change in the cognitive mechansims utilised for music perception and these shared mechanisms are usually employed for language.”

I’ll look forward to hearing more entails about how the researchers measured brain activity. For now, enjoy your music: You may be enhancing your brain’s blood flow, something that will hopefully translate into risk reduction for dementia! I’m Dr. Michael Hunter, and for today I look forward to some Beethoven late quartets.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

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Reference: British Psychological Society (BPS). “Musical training can increase blood flow in the brain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140507211622.htm>.

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