Researchers discovering amazing impacts of music on our brainsMay 22, 2012 @ 4:39 pm (Updated: 11:54 am - 5/23/12 )
Remember the viral video a little while ago where an elderly Alzheimer's patient comes to life when he hears some familiar music on an iPod?
It turns out some experts aren't surprised at all. In fact, they're finding some amazing things about our brains on music.
"Music activates a broad network of regions throughout the brain and it causes neurons to fire synchronysly with the music just like your fingers would be snapping in time," says Dr. Daniel Levitin, professor of psychology and neuroscience at McGill University in Montreal. He's also an accomplished musician and author of the groundbreaking book "This Is Your Brain On Music." And along with the synaptic symphony that comes with your favorite music, he's now finding music is good for more than our souls, it's actually good for our health.
"We're just beginning to see evidence for this in terms of increasing immune function, increasing the production of T-cells and killer cells in the blood stream from playing music, increases in mood."
Levitin says his studies are now finding that kids who learn to play an instrument seem to trigger a change in their brains that gives them the ability to learn other things faster and more efficiently.
But he says we can all benefit from learning an instrument at any age, even if we aren't any good at it.
"It helps to train the attentional networks of the brain it always helps to acquire a new skill when you get older in terms of metaphorically you can think of it as lubricating the brain to help stave off Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases."
And go ahead, crank it up. Levitin says the volume can have a big impact as well.
"When the music is really loud the neurons fire in a different fashion. It's not just that they're firing more but there's this qualitative difference in the neural firing when the music is super loud."
Somewhat surprisingly, it doesn't really matter what kind of music it is as long as you like it. Familiarity plays a huge part. And as Levitan puts it, one man's Rachmaninoff is another's Ramones.
Josh Kerns/Seattle Sounds co-host
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