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Brain Comes Alive to Sound of Music

Finding offers hope for variety of cures 
Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1998 (Reprinted in the Sacramento Bee)

The music that makes the foot tap, the fingers snap and the pulse quicken stirs the brain at is most fundamental levels, suggesting that scientists one day may be able to return damaged minds by exploiting rhythm, harmony and melody, according to new research presented Sunday (November 1998).

Exploring the neurobiology of music, researchers discovered direct evidence that music stimulates specific regions of the brain responsible for memory, motor control, timing and language.  For the first time, researchers also have located specific areas of mental activity linked to emotional responses to music.   . . .

The latest findings, presented at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Los Angeles, underscore how music--as an almost universal language of mood, emotion and desire--orchestrates a wide variety of neural systems to cast its evocative spell.    "Undeniably, there is a biology of music," said Harvard University Medical School neurobiologist Mark Jude Tramo.   "There is no question that there is specialization within the human brain for the processing of music.  Music is biologically part of human life, just as music is aesthetically part of human life." . . .

Overall, music seems to involve the brain at almost every level.  Even allowing for cultural differences in musical tastes, the researchers found evidence of music's remarkable power to affect neural activity no matter where they look in the brain, from primitive regions in all animals to more recently evolved regions thought to be distinctively human.

 
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