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How and Why Does Music Move Us?: Answers from Psychology and Neuroscience

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  • Joint Scool for Nanoscience and Nanoengineering University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Abstract and Figures

What scientific evidence can music educators share with their community stakeholders concerning how and why music moves us so powerfully? Five key points derived from recent psychological and neuroscientific findings are (1) Network Science is a new technique that allows researchers to examine the brain’s interconnectivity as people listen to music; (2) the Default Mode Network is a set of interconnecting brain networks that are involved in conscious awareness, self-reflection, and autobiographical memories and emotions; (3) when people listen to preferred music, there is dynamic interconnectivity in the Default Mode Network, linking music to self-awareness, along with associated personal histories, core emotional memories, and empathy; (4) musical training leads to numerous changes in the brain that have implications for music learning; and (5) scientific evidence supports the powerful role that music plays in enhancing quality of life.
Content may be subject to copyright.
by Donald A. Hodges and Robin W. Wilkins
Copyright © 2015 Nationa l Association
for Music Edu cation
DO I: 10.1177/ 002 7432 11557 57 55
http://mej.sagepub.com
www.nafme.org 41
What can psychology
and neuroscience
research teach us
about the value of
music?
Donald A. Hodges is a professor of music education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; he can be contacted
at dahodges@uncg.edu. Robin W. Wilkins is a network neuroimaging scientist at the Joint School for Nanoscience and
Nanoengineering Gateway MRI Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; she can be contacted at robinwwilkins@
gmail.com.
How and Why Does
Music Move Us?
Answers from Psychology
and Neuroscience
Abstract: What scientific evidence can music educators share with their community stake-
holders concerning how and why music moves us so powerfully? Five key points derived
from recent psychological and neuroscientific findings are (1) Network Science is a new
technique that allows researchers to examine the brain’s interconnectivity as people listen
to music; (2) the Default Mode Network is a set of interconnecting brain networks that
are involved in conscious awareness, self-reflection, and autobiographical memories and
emotions; (3) when people listen to preferred music, there is dynamic interconnectivity in
the Default Mode Network, linking music to self-awareness, along with associated personal
histories, core emotional memories, and empathy; (4) musical training leads to numerous
changes in the brain that have implications for music learning; and (5) scientific evidence
supports the powerful role that music plays in enhancing quality of life.
Keywords: brain, Default Mode Network, network science, neuromusical research, peak
experiences
W
hat scientific information can
music educators share with par-
ents of their students, administra-
tors, school board members, and community
leaders about the powerful role of music in
our lives? Imagine, if you will, the closing
concert in a weeklong celebration of music
at a typical high school. The band and jazz
ensemble have already performed, and the
choir and orchestra will perform shortly.
Between these presentations, however, the
audience hears a brief talk given by a psy-
chologist and a neuroscientist. Let’s listen in
as the principal introduces them.
Principal Bryant: “Ladies and gentleman,
the moving performances you just heard may
naturally raise some fundamental questions
about how music is processed in the brain.
To provide some answers, I’ve invited Dr.
Valerie Reynolds, a neuroscientist, and Dr.
Steven Reynolds, a cognitive psychologist, to
share with us some recent scientific evidence
that may help explain our strong responses
to music. They will also show some images
of recent brain research. Dr. Valerie is an
accomplished violinist, and Dr. Steven is an
avid singer and guitarist. They are also the
proud parents of Jenny Reynolds, a cellist
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42
in our school orchestra. Please welcome
Drs. Valerie and Steven.”
Steven: “Thank you, Mr. Bryant. As
you think about these young people
performing so beautifully, and other
meaningful musical experiences you
may have had in your life, you may be
wondering, ‘How and why does music
move me so much? Why do human
beings all over the world and through-
out time find such deep pleasure and
meaning in music?’ Valerie and I will
do our best to give you some current
information emerging from the cognitive
neuroscience of music. In the interest of
time, we’re going to do this in five brief
segments. We’ll talk about a new brain-
imaging analysis method called Network
Science, brain areas called the Default
Mode Network, an exciting brain-imag-
ing experiment involving the effects
of music preference on the brain, and
music learning’s effect on brain struc-
ture and function. Finally, we’ll weave
these four strands together into a more
complete picture of why music so pow-
erfully moves us as it affects quality of
life. Here is Dr. Valerie.”
Network Science
Valerie: “To begin, brain-imaging exper-
iments in general, and those concerned
with music in particular, have improved
tremendously in the past few decades.
Researchers have discovered which parts
of the brain are active during a variety
of musical tasks, such as listening to or
performing brief excerpts. They have
learned that everyone has the possibility
of meaningful musical experiences and
that those who study music seriously
show significant changes in both brain
structure and function,1 which we’ll dis-
cuss later. However, there is a signifi-
cant limitation to traditional approaches:
The brain does not function by tiny
areas acting in isolation, but rather as
an integrated, interconnected system.
Because people’s responses unfold
while they are experiencing music, neu-
roscientists needed a way to investigate
the whole brain while a listener enjoys
an extended musical selection. Fortu-
nately, a very recent development called
Network Science2 allows us to do both
those things; now we can investigate
dynamic interconnectivity in the brain
as listeners hear complete songs.
“By measuring brain activity throughout
the whole brain, including interconnec-
tions among the front-back, top-bottom,
and left-right sections of the brain, we can
construct a connectivity map that repre-
sents how the brain communicates within
itself from moment to moment. A voxel is
a tiny, three-dimensional piece of brain
tissue comparable to a pixel on a tel-
evision or computer screen. It contains
about 5.5 million neurons and 50 billion
synapses, which are the connections
between neurons. Using a network sci-
ence approach, researchers constructed
a brain connectivity map consisting of
approximately 21,000 voxels monitored
during five minutes of music listen-
ing.3 They determined the strength of
these connections, measured between
each voxel across time, and eliminated
the weaker connections. Retaining the
strongest connections between voxels
throughout the entire brain provided
a connectivity map of the brain during
real-time music listening.”
The Default Mode Network
Valerie: “Relevant to the effects of music,
I want to describe the Default Mode
Network—DMN for short. As shown in
Figure 1, the DMN is a set of intercon-
nected regions in the brain that becomes
less active when you are paying out-
ward attention to something but is more
engaged when you are focusing inward,
such as during introspection or mind-
wandering.4 Neuroscientists often call
it ‘the resting state.’ We think that peo-
ple move in and out of the resting state
throughout the day. For example, maybe
one minute your mind is adrift and
you’re reflecting on your life and feeling
overwhelmingly grateful or perhaps the
opposite, a sense of profound loss. While
your mind is wandering, you may sud-
denly in the next minute have to redirect
your attention to an external task.
“The DMN emerges in infancy5
and continues to develop through-
out the life span.6 It supports levels
of consciousness or awareness, and in
the case of self-awareness, the DMN is
involved in the reprocessing of autobio-
graphical memories and self-relevant
emotions. This experience is something
I like to think of as ‘mulling over.’ It
is also active while one ruminates on
hopes and dreams. The DMN is thought
to help us imagine or understand the
feeling states of others.7 Support for
these ideas comes from the fact that
the DMN is impaired in individuals with
Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, and
other cognitive conditions that involve a
loss of self-awareness.”8
A Network Science
Music Experiment
Steven: “In a study involving music
and the DMN, researchers had young
FIGURE 1
The Default Mode Network.
This is a view of the brain
looking down from the top.
The colored areas are regions
that cooperate with each other
during times of introspection.
Colors indicate the degree to
which the area serves as an
important conduit of neural
information, with red areas
being more critical than yellow.
Image by Robert Kraf t
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adults listen to entire songs or extended
excerpts from different musical genres.9
Participants reported preferences for a
specific type of music—country, classi-
cal, rock, or rap/hip-hop—and identi-
fied a personal, all-time favorite piece
as well. The researchers had them listen
to a set of randomly presented songs
from each of these genres as well as an
unfamiliar selection of Chinese opera.
You may recognize some of these
songs. [Steven plays a few seconds of
“I Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night” by
the band KISS, “O.M.G.” by the singer/
songwriter Usher (full name Usher
Terry Raymond IV), and the beginning
of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5.] In
addition, each person listened to his or
her self-reported, all-time favorite song
or piece of music.
“Because this was the first time
researchers had used network science
to analyze brain responses while listen-
ers heard entire songs, they discovered
information previously unobtainable.
The primary finding was that when these
young adults listened to music, their
brains showed increased connectivity
in the DMN, as shown in Figure 2. In
particular, preferred and favorite music
elicited increased connectivity to the
frontal part of the brain. This indicated
that listening to favorite music engaged
the part of the brain involved in higher-
order thinking, which can involve such
cognitive functions as understanding,
analysis, and evaluation.
“Another finding was that it was not
the genre of music or whether the music
had lyrics, but, more important, whether
the person liked it, that changed the pat-
terns of brain functional connectivity.
Analysis revealed that when a person
listens to music he or she prefers, the
brain increases connectivity within the
Default Mode Network. This supports
what people often report: They find
themselves considering unsolicited per-
sonal thoughts while listening to music
that they like. They are essentially ‘look-
ing in’—ruminating on personally rel-
evant memories and emotions—rather
than ‘looking out’—paying attention to
external events.
“Because it is involved in rumina-
tion, where new ideas can be formed,
it has been suggested that the DMN
might influence aspects related to crea-
tivity, abstract thought processing, and
cognitive flexibility. It helps us connect
FIGURE 2
The Default Mode Network during Music Listening. Colored portions link together in a distributed
communications network. Note that frontal regions of the brain (red arrows) are part of the network when
listeners like the music and are missing when they do not like the music. Red color indicates consistent
involvement of these regions among music listeners; purple indicates less consistency.
Image by Robin W. Wilkins
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44
smaller bits of previously disconnected
pieces of information, such as puzzle
pieces, to create a new idea or con-
cept. Furthermore, some researchers
consider this network related to identity
formation, social learning, and personal
decision-making. While more research is
needed, the close association between
the DMN and music may explain why
people identify themselves, even as
young children, so strongly with certain
genres or favorite pieces of music.”
Music and Brain Function
Valerie: “A number of years ago, the
notion that music makes us smarter
garnered a great deal of press. Recent
findings provide a more nuanced per-
spective. Certainly, we see that music
learning modifies brain structures and
functions. Adult musicians, especially
those who started studying seriously
before the age of seven, show changes
in numerous brain regions and improved
functioning for music processing. What
you see up on the stage tonight are young
people who are engaging in intensive
mental and neurological feats to sing or
play their instruments. Performing music
is a whole-brain activity, with neural
pathways connecting multiple regions
throughout the brain. As you look at the
next four images (Figure 3), you will see
colorized pathways in the brain of a pro-
fessional clarinetist. In Figure 3a, we see
her brain as if looking at it from the back
of her head. The purple strands show
neural pathways connecting the top and
bottom of the brain; the green strands
are neural pathways running primarily
side to side. Next (Figure 3b), we see
an image of her brain taken from the left
side. The red band in the center is her
corpus callosum, the major neural path-
way connecting the left and right sides
of her brain. Based on data from several
studies, it is likely that she has millions
more fibers in her corpus callosum than
those who have not studied music.10 In
Figure 3c, we see her brain from the top.
Neural pathways connecting the front
and back parts of her brain are shown
clearly. Finally, in the last image (Figure
3d), we see the same red band on the
left side of the image as in a previous
slide; this is her corpus callosum. The
blue strands arising out of her head show
neural pathways running from the core
of her brain to the top. Researchers have
demonstrated differences in neural path-
ways between highly trained musicians
and those without training. Furthermore,
there is a strong relationship between the
amount of time practiced during child-
hood and adolescence and structures in
the brains of adult musicians.11 From a
neuroscientific perspective, then, musi-
cal training can cause significant and
lasting changes in the brain. However,
those changes do not necessarily trans-
late into better performances in other
domains, as Steven will explain.”
Steven: “From my perspective, the
answer to the question, ‘Does music
make you smarter?’ is ‘no, maybe, and
yes. . . depending.’ [Laughter.] What I
mean by ‘no,’ is that we do not auto-
matically become smarter simply by lis-
tening to music. It is true that students
such as these [motions toward band,
orchestra, choir, and jazz ensemble] on
average have higher grades than those
who do not participate in music.12 How-
ever, research is still ongoing to under-
stand what is transpiring in the brain that
might influence academic performance.
It is probable that these findings about
music and academic skills are in large
part a result of children coming from
homes where the parents support educa-
tion, provide their children with oppor-
tunities such as attending concerts, and
teach them good time management skills,
responsibility, perseverance, and so on.13
“The ‘maybe’ answer comes from
work on what is called near and far
transfer.14 That is, those with musical
training tend to do better on near trans-
fer tasks that are similar to music, such
as auditory discrimination in language.15
They are less likely to perform as well
on far transfer tasks that distantly relate
to music. The ‘yes’ answer is that, as
Valerie demonstrated in the previous
slides, there are distinct brain changes
in adult musicians compared to those
without formal training, and this leads
to improved performance on musical
tasks. Some of these changes occur in
the auditory cortex, the corpus callosum,
the cerebellum (responsible for integrat-
ing sensory input into motor output), the
gray matter (the outer wrapping of the
brain involved in sensory, motor, cog-
nitive, and emotional processing), the
white matter (the inner core involved
in transmitting messages throughout
the brain), sensorimotor cortex (where
incoming sensory information and out-
going motor actions are processed), and
multimodal integration areas (where
information from the senses is inte-
grated into a coherent whole).16 These
changes generally lead to more efficient
functioning, that is, faster and more
accurate performances on musical tasks.
Because some musical tasks may share
components with other domains such as
language, it is possible that becoming
musically proficient may confer benefits
to performance in other domains. For
example, at-risk children who received
two years of musical training improved
significantly in neural processing of
speech sounds when compared with
those who did not receive the training
or who only had it for one year.”17
Intense Musical Experiences
and Quality of Life
Steven: “To move away from how music
might influence other domains and
return to core musical experiences, we
want to finish with an examination of
what these powerful, emotional experi-
ences have to do with quality of life. In
doing so, we will be weaving psycho-
logical and neuroscientific experiences
into a coherent viewpoint.
“In the 1960s, psychologist Abraham
Maslow wrote about peak experiences.
These are intense, transcendent, intrinsic
experiences that are critical in achiev-
ing self-actualization or in progressing
toward becoming who we are meant
to be—our best, most complete selves.
Maslow found that music is one of the
most common ways for people to have
peak experiences.18 Nearly fifty years
later, Swedish psychologist Alf Gabriels-
son surveyed more than 1,300 people,
asking them to describe ‘the strongest,
most intense experience with music’ they
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FIGURE 3
Communication Pathways in the Brain
could recall.19 Responses ranged from
physical responses such as weeping or
hair standing up on the back of the neck,
to the elicitation of important memories
that were highly emotional and person-
ally important. These descriptions bore
a very strong resemblance to Maslow’s
concept of peak experiences.
“More recently, another group of
researchers conducted in-depth interviews
concerning intense musical experiences.
They concluded that intense musical
experiences can lead to enduring changes
in one’s personal values, perceptions of
the meaning of life, social relationships,
and personal development.20 Intense
musical experiences can ‘help us to real-
ize our true inner selves in order to live
a more authentic, fulfilled, and spiritual
life.’21 Finally, psychologist Adam Croom22
discussed the role of music in five com-
monly recognized factors that are charac-
teristic of human flourishing or well-being:
(1) positive emotion, (2) relationships,
(3) engagement, (4) achievement, and
(5) meaning. For each of these five factors,
he identified relevant research, including
neuroimaging studies, that shows music’s
potential for enhancing the human expe-
rience. Croom concluded that ‘musical
engagement can positively contribute to
one’s living a flourishing life.’23 In sum,
evidence confirms the notion that music
is a common way for people to have very
powerful, emotional experiences that are
transcendent, help shape each person in
unique ways, are long lasting, and that
lead to an enhancement of quality of life.”
Valerie: “The field of neuroscience is
developing so rapidly that we are now
capable of examining the brain to study
aspects of mental experiences in ways
Image by Robin W. Wilkins
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46
we never dreamed were possible. For
example, philosophers have thought
about the nature of musical experi-
ences for several thousand years, but
recently neuroscientists are joining the
discussion.24 I want to talk briefly about
something called neuroaesthetics—the
investigation of brain systems involved
in aesthetic experiences.25 Because defi-
nitions of an ‘aesthetic response’ can vary
and because music is represented in dif-
fuse patterns spread throughout various
regions of the brain, there is no specific
‘music aesthetics network.’ However,
in addition to the DMN, neuroscientists
have identified other brain mechanisms
involved in significant musical experi-
ences that are associated with reward,
memory, self-reflection, emotion, and
sensorimotor processes.26 After conduct-
ing a meta-analysis of ninety-three neu-
roimaging studies involving visual art as
well as music, neuroscientists concluded
that aesthetic processing primarily involves
positive/negative judgments, such as like/
dislike or pleasant/unpleasant, and that
this is an adaptation of our appraisal of
things that provide survival value, such
as food or potential mates.27
“One way to organize neuroaesthet-
ics findings as they apply to music is to
consider brain-imaging experiments that
support each of music educator Gerard
Kneiter’s five characteristics of an aesthetic
experience—focus, perception, cognition,
affect, and cultural matrix.28 Focus, or
paying attention to the music, unfolds in
a timeline of neural responses that begins
with auditory brainstem responses that
occur within a few milliseconds. Positive/
negative judgments29 and identification of
musical genre30 can occur in less than an
eighth of a second. Researchers found
evidence of focused attention over time
when performances of Bach by profes-
sional pianists caused a sharp decrease of
blood flow in specific areas of the brain.31
Music perception32 and cognition33 engage
many brain regions, with specific aspects
such as pitch and rhythm processed in
distinct areas.
“Musical emotions are also broadly rep-
resented in the brain, with many different
structures involved.34 So-called feel-good
neurochemicals such as dopamine35 and
serotonin36 are released during musical
experiences, leading to intensely pleasur-
able feelings. By ‘cultural matrix,’ Kneiter
meant that music does not occur in a vac-
uum; rather, it occurs within broader soci-
ocultural contexts. A number of studies
have demonstrated that culturally familiar
and unfamiliar music elicit activations in
different brain regions.37 Neuroaesthetics
is a relatively new field, and we should
expect to see much progress in coming
years that will help us better understand
how we process aesthetic experiences
with music in the brain.”
Steven: “To recap briefly: From our
discussion so far, we can draw five
important conclusions:
First, using the new techniques of
network science, we can examine
the brain’s interconnectivity as it pro-
cesses extended musical experiences.
Second, the Default Mode Network is
a set of brain networks that deal with
conscious awareness, self-reflection,
and autobiographical memories and
emotions.
Third, in the particular experiment
described previously, we saw that
when people listened to their preferred
music, there was dynamic intercon-
nectivity in the Default Mode Net-
work, linking music to self-awareness,
along with associated personal histo-
ries, core emotional memories, and
empathy.
Fourth, musical training leads to
numerous changes in the brain.
While these modifications definitely
influence musical processing, they
may or may not lead to improved
performance in other domains such
as language arts or mathematics.
Fifth, a considerable amount of psy-
chological and neuroscientific evi-
dence supports the powerful role
that music can play in enhancing the
quality of life.
“What this means to us can be
summed up nicely in a brief quote from
Sister Wendy Beckett. Sister Wendy is
known for her video series on the his-
tory of art. When a BBC interviewer
asked her what we gain from engaging
in art experiences, she answered imme-
diately and succinctly, ‘We can become
more fully human.’38 Transposing this
to music, perhaps we can say that one
of the most significant values of music
is that it can provide us with insights
into the human condition. No matter
the differences of age, gender, ethnic-
ity, socioeconomic status, or any other
real or perceived variable, at heart we
are united by the fact of being human.
Music has the capacity to tap into this
central aspect of our humanity to reveal,
explore, and share what it is that makes
us both corporately the same and yet
individually unique. Furthermore, musi-
cal experiences appear to connect brain
structures that play essential roles in our
development and well-being, especially
when we are being thrilled to the core,
lifted to new heights, or experiencing
transcendence over everyday concerns
as we sing, play, create, dance, or listen
to music. In conclusion, all of this evi-
dence points to a scientific explanation
for how and why music moves us.”
Notes
1. Isabelle Peretz and Robert J. Zatorre,
“Brain Organization for Music
Processing,” Annual Reviews of
Psychology 56 (2005): 89–114.
2. Ed Bullmore and Olaf Sporns, “Complex
Brain Networks: Graph Theoretical
Analysis of Structural and Functional
Systems,” Nature Reviews Neuroscience
10, no. 3 (2009): 186–98.
3. Robin W. Wilkins, Donald A. Hodges, Paul
J. Laurienti, Matthew Steen, and Jonathan
H. Burdette, “Network Science: A New
Method for Investigating the Complexity
of Musical Experiences in the Brain,”
Leonardo 45, no. 3 (2012): 282–83.
4. Marcus Raichle and Abraham Snyder,
“A Default Mode of Brain Function:
A Brief History of an Evolving Idea,”
NeuroImage 37 (2007): 1083–90.
5. Christopher D. Smyser, Abraham Z.
Snyder, and Jeffrey J. Neil, “Functional
Connectivity MRI in Infants: Exploration
of the Functional Organization of the
Developing Brain,” NeuroImage 56
(2011): 1437–52.
6. Kaustubh Supekar, Lucina Q. Uddin,
Katherine Prater, Hitha Amin, Michael
D. Greicius, and Vinod Menon,
“Development of Functional and
Structural Connectivity within the Default
Mode Network in Young Children,”
NeuroImage 52 (2010): 290–301.
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www.nafme.org 47
7. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Joanna
A. Christodoulou, and Vanessa Singh,
“Rest Is Not Idleness: Implications
of the Brain’s Default Mode for
Human Development and Education,”
Perspectives on Psychological Science 7,
no. 4 (2012): 352–64.
8. Samantha J. Broyd, Charmaine
Demanuele, Stefan Debener, Suzannah
K. Helps, Christopher J. James, and
Edmund J.S. Sonuga-Barke, “Default-
Mode Brain Dysfunction in Mental
Disorders: A Systematic Review,”
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
33, no. 3 (2009): 279–96.
9. Robin W. Wilkins, Donald A. Hodges,
Paul J. Laurienti, Matthew Steen, and
Jonathan H. Burdette, “Network Science
and the Effect of Music Preference
on Functional Brain Connectivity:
From Beethoven to Eminem,” Nature
Scientific Reports 4, no. 6130 (2014):
doi:10.1038/srep06130.
10. Gottfried Schlaug, Lutz Jäncke, Yanxiong
Huang, Jochen Staiger, and Helmuth
Steinmetz, “Increased Corpus Callosum
Size in Musicians,” Neuropsychologia
33, no. 8 (1995), 1047–55.
11. Sara Bengtsson, Zoltán Nagy, Stefan
Skare, Lea Forsman, Hans Forssberg,
and Fredrik Ullén, “Extensive Piano
Practicing Has Regionally Specific
Effects on White Matter Development,”
Nature Neuroscience 8, no. 9 (2005):
1148–50.
12. Steven Morrison, “Music Students and
Academic Growth,” Music Educators
Journal 81, no 2 (1994): 33–36.
13. Gael Orsmond and Leon Miller,
“Cognitive, Musical and Environmental
Correlates of Early Music Instruction,”
Psychology of Music 27, no. 1 (1999):
18–37; and John Sloboda and Michael
Howe, “Biographical Precursors of
Musical Excellence: An Interview Study,”
Psychology of Music 19 (1991): 3–21.
14. Marie Forgeard, Ellen Winner, Andrea
Norton, and Gottfried Schlaug,
“Practicing a Musical Instrument in
Childhood Is Associated with Enhanced
Verbal Ability and Nonverbal Reasoning,”
PLoS ONE 3, no. 10 (2008): e3566.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003566.
15. Jürg Kühnis, Stefan Elmer, and Lutz
Jäncke, “Auditory Evoked Responses
in Musicians during Passive Vowel
Listening Are Modulated by Functional
Connectivity between Bilateral Auditory-
Related Brain Responses,” Journal of
Cognitive Neuroscience 26, no. 12
(2015): 2750–61.
16. Peretz and Zatorre, “Brain Organization.”
17. Nina Kraus, Jessica Slater,
Elaine Thompson, Jane Hornickel,
Dana Strait, Trent Nicol, and Travis
White-Schwoch, “Music Enrichment
Programs Improve the Neural Encoding
of Speech in At-Risk Children,”
Journal of Neuroscience 34, no. 36
(2014): 11913–18.
18. Abraham Maslow, “Music, Education, and
Peak Experiences,” in Documentary Report
of the Tanglewood Symposium, ed. Robert
Choate (Washington, DC: Music Educators
National Conference, 1968), 68–75.
19. Alf Gabrielsson, Strong Experiences with
Music: Music Is Much More Than Just
Music, trans. Ray Bradbury (New York:
Oxford University Press, 2011).
20. Thomas Schäfer, Mario Smulkalla, and
Sarah-Ann Oelker, “How Music Changes
Our Lives: A Qualitative Study of the
Long-Term Effects of Intense Musical
Experiences,” Psychology of Music 42,
no. 4 (2014): 525–44.
21. Ibid., 542.
22. Adam M. Croom, “Music, Neuroscience,
and the Psychology of Well-being:
A Précis,” Frontiers in Psychology 2,
no. 393 (2012): 1–15. doi:10.3389/
fpsyg.2011.00393.
23. Ibid., 1.
24. Elvira Brattico and Marcus Pearce, “The
Neuroaesthetics of Music,” Psychology of
Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 7, no.
1 (2013): 48–61; and Donald Hodges,
“The Neuroaesthetics of Music,” in The
Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology,
Susan Hallam, Ian Cross, and Michael
Thaut (London: Oxford University Press).
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by guest on June 12, 2015mej.sagepub.comDownloaded from
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Thesis
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Chapter
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Article
The mass media and the Internet have given us unlimited paths into the world of music. Just like music is varied and endless, so are our reactions to it. The very same piece of music can generate totally different reactions in different people, and a person can react quite differently to the same piece of music on different occasions. Individual factors - how you are feeling, how accustomed are you to listening to music, what your tastes are in music, what type of personality you are, and lots more besides - can play a major, sometimes completely decisive, role for how the reaction turns out. Similarly, the experience can be affected by the specific situation, for example where and when you hear the music (at home, in your car, at a concert, in the daytime, at night etc.), whether or not the acoustics are good, and if you are on your own or together with others. The experience is thus determined by an interplay of factors in the music, in the individual, and in the situation. Developments in the brain sciences have been invaluable in helping researchers to understand just how the human brain deals with music. However, there is a major gap between what we can uncover using state of the art technology, and understanding just what music really means to us personally. While measuring brain or heart activity can reveal much about our physiological reactions, there is of course much more to music than this.
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What do we do when we view a work of art? What does it mean to have an "aesthetic" experience? Are such experiences purely in the eye (and brain) of the beholder? Such questions have entertained philosophers for millennia and psychologists for over a century. More recently, with the advent of functional neuroimaging methods, a handful of ambitious brain scientists have begun to explore the neural correlates of such experiences. The notion of aesthetics is generally linked to the way art evokes an hedonic response-we like it or we don't. Of course, a multitude of factors can influence such judgments, such as personal interest, past experience, prior knowledge, and cultural biases. In this book, philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists were asked to address the nature of aesthetic experiences from their own discipline's perspective. In particular, the scholars were asked to consider whether a multidisciplinary approach, an aesthetic science, could help connect mind, brain, and aesthetics. As such, this book offers an introduction to the way art is perceived, interpreted, and felt and approaches these mindful events from a multidisciplinary perspective.
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Currently, there is striking evidence showing that professional musical training can substantially alter the response properties of auditory-related cortical fields. Such plastic changes have previously been shown not only to favor the processing of musical sounds, but likewise spectral and temporal aspects of speech. Therefore, here we used the EEG technique and measured a sample of musicians and nonmusicians while the participants were passively exposed to artificial vowels in the context of an oddball paradigm. Thereby, we evaluated whether increased intracerebral functional connectivity between bilateral auditory-related brain regions may promote sensory specialization in musicians, as reflected by altered cortical N1 and P2 responses. This assumption builds on the reasoning that sensory specialization is dependent, at least in part, on the amount of synchronization between the two auditory cortices. Results clearly revealed that auditory-evoked N1 responses were shaped by musical expertise. In addition, in line with our reasoning musicians showed an overall increased intracerebral functional connectivity (as indexed by lagged phase synchronization) in theta, alpha, and beta bands. Finally, within-group correlation analyses indicated a relationship between intracerebral beta band connectivity and cortical N1 responses, however only in the musicians' group. Taken together, we provide first electrophysiological evidence for a relationship between musical expertise, auditory-evoked brain responses, and intracerebral functional connectivity among auditory-related brain regions.