Consumer & Behavioral Neuroscience

Neuroscience, Music and Memory

Neuroscience, Music and Memory

The Beatles’ Surprising Contribution To Brain Science aired this morning on NPR on my drive into work.

The same brain system that controls our muscles also helps us remember music, scientists say.

Basically, scientists at Georgetown University scanned participants brains while they listened to their favorite cds.  And while they expected to see activity in the auditory cortex, they were surprised to see the level of activity in the motor cortex.  Further, when testing with a series of progressively complex computer generated tones, the motor cortex was found to be more active with the added tones.

The motor system is said to be sequencing the sounds, reading the music.

This reminded me of piano competitions as a child. I competed in state competitions and excelled in the area of “sight reading”, where you are given a piece of music you have never seen and given a few minutes to look it over and then play it cold for the judges. I would read the music and hear the tones in my head.  My fingers would move as I read the music.

This all led me to this interesting blog post: 

Sight-Reading Music: A Unique Window on the Mind

“This articles looks at the way research in music cognition and behaviour could bring forth new discoveries of the mind, instead of merely paralleling them to instances of other, better known subjects.”


Pretty cool. Further evidence of overlap and multi-sensory consolidation.  Our senses do not work in a vacuum. Smell enhances taste, sound works with sight.  Things that shouldn’t be viewed as complications to neuroscientific research, but possible assets and routes to discovery.

And reminds me… I’ve been meaning to pick up this book: 

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks

If you’ve never read any Sacks, I highly recommend him.

2 comments on “Neuroscience, Music and Memory

  1. Ad Mirer
    November 8, 2012

    Very interesting. I wonder what happens in the brain when people listen to noise or things that they don’t see as being “music”.

    • nerdoscientist
      November 8, 2012

      Good question!
      That might make for an interesting control in such a study.

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