Neuroscientists have studies in understanding music and the brain that have been making enormous discoveries during the last decade. Instruments like Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanners have made it possible to observe brain activity of individuals when engaging in cognitive tasks like reading and writing. This paved the way to observe the brain’s activity when exposed to music in real time.
Certain areas of the brain were found to have activity when doing cognitive tasks, these are specifically assigned to corresponding areas. But when neuroscientists observed brain activity of an individual exposed to music, it was another breakthrough. Not only did certain areas of the brain were found to have activity, but surprisingly multiple areas were functioning all at the same time.
It was explained that the brain would decipher music to parts like melody, lyrics and rhythm then mix all of these elements into a cocktail of a blissful experience. This happens in a split second as the individuals listen to music and enjoy the experience.
When neuroscientists focused on musicians playing music, it was another astonishing discovery. Musicians while playing music have more brain activity than just listening to music. The visual, auditory and motor cortexes are required in playing music thus more brain activity all at the same time.
With constant practice in playing music, neuroscientists have discovered that it increases the activity of the corpus callosum, which connects the left and right hemisphere of the brain. Playing music activates both left and right hemispheres and with the increase of activity of the corpus callosum, information between the left and the right hemispheres travels faster in more complicated paths. Combining the left hemisphere of the brain which involved mathematical precision and the right hemisphere of the brain which involves creative artistry is a splendid formula for problem solving in both academic and social settings.
Musicians have also been discovered to have a different way of storing information. Due to the musical brain activity, they tend to create, store and retrieve memory efficiently, giving each memory a tag – conceptual tag, emotional tag, audio tag and contextual tag to make the memory more colorful and realistic. Neuroscientists have agreed that listening to music and playing music, although have different levels of brain activity, have both profound and beneficial effects to the brain. More and more music psychology research studies are being conducted at present to help us understand how our brain works.
(Editor’s Note: Prof. Jose Maria G. Pelayo III (JPelayo) is a Music Director of Systems Plus College Foundation and Music Psychologist conducting research on the effects of music on cognitive, conative and affective behavior. An Author of Criminal Psychology, Deputy Director of Amerasian Research, Music Therapy Advocate and Researcher, Musician and Composer. He was a Social Research Coordinator, Professor in Psychology and earned a degree of MA in Social Development at PWU and AB Psychology at UP. He believes in the influence of music on holistic education and development.)