Your Brain on Music

Article excerpt

Music lights up almost every area of the brain, which shouldn't be a surprise since it makes people tap their feet, encourages the recollection of vivid memories and has the potential to lighten the mood.

Around the outside

1. Prefrontal cortex: This brain region plays a role in the creation, satisfaction and violation of expectations. It may react, for instance, when a beat goes missing. Recent work has shown that during improvisation a part of the prefrontal cortex involved in monitoring performance shuts down, while parts involved in self-initiated thoughts ramp up.

2. Motor cortex: Music is not independent of motion. Foot-tapping and dancing often accompany a good beat, meaning the motor cortex gets involved. And playing an instrument requires carefully timed physical movements. In some cases, this area of the brain is engaged when a person simply hears notes, suggesting a strong link to the auditory cortex.

3. Sensory cortex: Playing an instrument sends tactile messages to the sensory cortex, as keys are hit, for example.


4. Auditory cortex: Hearing any sound, including music, involves this region, which contains a map of pitches for the perception and analysis of tones.

5. Visual cortex: Reading music or watching a performer's movements activates the visual cortex. …