Music is one of those rare objects that can bring people together. It’s the universal language of the world and even though we all have different tastes, it would be difficult to find someone who cannot appreciate its beauty. We listen to music when we are commuting to work when we are working out at the gym and even when we are relaxing in the comfort of our bed depending on what type of mood we are trying to set for that particular moment. Every culture throughout history has been tied to the music of some sort of music going back over 40,000 years. Americans listen to an average of 4 hours of music a day (more like 8 hours for me) and it is ranked as the main source of pleasure based on international surveys.
Until now, scientists have not been able to discover any obvious evidence of an area in the brain that that detects and processes music. A group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has come together to develop an approach that past brain-related studies have missed:
“By mathematically analyzing scans of the auditory cortex and grouping clusters of brain cells with similar activation patterns, the scientists have identified neural pathways that react almost exclusively to the sound of music — any music. It may be Bach, bluegrass, hip-hop, big band, sitar or Julie Andrews. A listener may relish the sampled genre or revile it. No matter. When a musical passage is played, a distinct set of neurons tucked inside a furrow of a listener’s auditory cortex will fire in response.”
According to Josef Rauschecker, director of the Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience and Cognition at Georgetown University, this new development is extremely groundbreaking due to the fact that it shows, “that the brain gives specialized treatment to music recognition, that it regards music as fundamental a category as speech”. Dr. Norman-Haignere added to the uniqueness of this study by talking about how, “The sound of a solo drummer, whistling, pop songs, rap, almost everything that has a musical quality to it, melodic or rhythmic, would activate it. That’s one reason the result surprised us. The signals of speech are so much more homogeneous.”
Studies like this will ultimately help explain things like why the man in the below video feels such strong emotions after listening to music. To learn more about this new research being done, be sure to read the full article from the New York Times.