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The Brain Loves Harmony

July 22, 2017

“Undeniably, there is a biology of music,” according to Harvard University Medical School neurobiologist Mark Jude Tramo. He sees it as beyond question that there is specialization within the brain for the processing of music.

 

Music is a biological part of life as surely as it is an aesthetic part. Studies as far back as 1990 found that the brain responds to harmony. Using a PET scanner to monitor changes in neural activity, neuroscientists at McGill University discovered that the part of the brain activated by music is dependent on whether or not the music is pleasant or dissonant.

 

The brain grows in response to musical training in the way a muscle responds to exercise. Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston discovered that male musicians have larger brains than men who have not had extensive musical training.

 

The cerebellums, that part of the brain containing 70% of the total brain’s neurons, were 5% larger in expert male musicians. Researchers have found evidence of the power of music to affect neural activity no matter where they looked in the brain, from primitive regions found in animals to more recently evolved areas thought to be strictly human such as the frontal lobes. Harmony, melody and rhythm invoke distinct patterns of brain activity.

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