Thursday, October 22, 2009

Your Brain on Music (1) - Why do we enjoy music?

Our inner year is connected to the auditory cortex, in the middle of our brain, which processes sound, analyses the tones, forms perceptions, etc.

But there are also direct connections from our inner ear to the cerebellum, a center of motor control and emotion, and the most primitive part of the human brain, in the back of our brain near the stem. This path bypasses the auditory cortex, the central receiving area for hearing in the middle of our brain. Our response to music is at least partly pre- or unconscious because a part of it goes through the cerebellum rather than the frontal lobes - the center of the most advanced cognitions in humans. {The photo is a scan of my wife's brain. Beautiful photo, isn't it?}

At the same time, there are two-way connections between the frontal lobe and the cerebellum, connecting the most advanced to the most primitive parts of the bran. Music, however, also excites the ventral striatum, the center of the brain’s reward system. That’s at least part of the reason why music is so enjoyable.

Some of the best musicians, when they are performing, try to get themselves into the same frame of mind and frame of heart that they were in when they wrote the song. They need their brains to match the emotional state that they are trying to express.

As listeners, some of our brain states will match those of the musicians we are listening to. We surrender to music when we listen to it. We allow ourselves to trust the composers and musicians with a part of our hearts and our spirits; we let the music take us somewhere outside of ourselves.

The power of music, like other arts, is that it can connect us to one another. And we now know a little more how it works. Fascinating, isn’t it? Read the book to find out more about it.

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