Category Archives: music

How playing the drums changes the brain

People who play drums regularly for years differ from unmusical people in their brain structure and function. The results of a study by researchers from Bochum suggest that they have fewer, but thicker fibers in the main connecting tract between the two halves of the brain. In addition, their motor brain areas are organized more efficiently. This is the conclusion drawn by a research team headed by Dr. Lara Schlaffke from the Bergmannsheil university clinic in Bochum and Associate Professor Dr. Sebastian Ocklenburg from the biopsychology research unit at Ruhr-Universität Bochum following a study with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The results have been published in the journal Brain and Behavior, online on 4 December 2019.

close up photo of drum set

Photo by Josh Sorenson on Pexels.com

Drummers were never previously studied

“It has long been understood that playing a musical instrument can change the brain via neuroplastic processes,” says Sarah Friedrich, who wrote her bachelor’s thesis on this project. “But no one had previously looked specifically into drummers,” she adds. Continue reading

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AI Examines how music makes us feel

Artificial intelligence helps shed light on how people’s brains, bodies, and emotions react to listening to music. Music influences parts of the auditory cortex, including the Heschl’s gyrus and superior temporal gyrus, specifically responding to pulse clarity. Changes in dynamics, rhythm, timbre, and the introduction of new instruments cause an uptick in the response. The study also identified the best song types for the perfect workout, sleep, and study.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Your heart beats faster, palms sweat and part of your brain called the Heschl’s gyrus lights up like a Christmas tree. Chances are, you’ve never thought about what happens to your brain and body when you listen to music in such a detailed way.

But it’s a question that has puzzled scientists for decades: Why does something as abstract as music provoke such a consistent response? In a new study, a team of USC researchers, with the help of artificial intelligence, investigated how music affects listeners’ brains, bodies and emotions.

The research team looked at heart rate, galvanic skin response (or sweat gland activity), brain activity and subjective feelings of happiness and sadness in a group of volunteers as they listened to three pieces of unfamiliar music. Continue reading

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Meditation and Music May Alter Blood Markers of Cellular Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in Adults with Early Memory Loss

A research team led by Dr. Kim Innes, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, has found that a simple meditation or music listening program may alter certain biomarkers of cellular aging and Alzheimer’s Disease in older adults who are experiencing memory loss. Study findings, reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, also suggest these changes may be directly related to improvements in memory and cognition, sleep, mood, and quality of life.

black and white keys music note

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Sixty older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD), a condition that may represent a preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, participated in the randomized, clinical trial. While SCD has been linked to increased risk for dementia and associated with certain neuropathological changes implicated in Alzheimer’s disease development, including elevated brain levels of beta amyloid, this preclinical period may also provide a critical window for therapeutic intervention.

In this trial, each participant was randomly assigned to either a beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya) or music listening program and asked to practice 12 minutes/day for 12 weeks. At baseline and 3 months, blood samples were collected. Two markers of cellular aging were measured: telomere length and telomerase activity. (Telomeres serve as protective caps on chromosomes; telomerase is an enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length). Blood levels of specific beta-amyloid peptides commonly linked to Alzheimer’s Disease were also assessed. In addition, memory and cognitive function, stress, sleep, mood, and quality of life were measured. All participants were followed for a total of 6 months. Continue reading

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Music and heart health – Harvard

As a lifetime music lover, I was pleased to read this item on it value in the Harvard Health Blog by Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter. One of my happiest discoveries in the past few years was a blue tooth speaker on a water bottle. I have my choice of over 1000 tunes on my iPhone to accompany me on the bike. Riding to music beats my previous soundless rides.

What’s your “cheer up” song? That question popped up on a recent text thread among a few of my longtime friends. It spurred a list of songs from the ‘70s and ‘80s, back when we were in high school and college. But did you know that music may actually help boost your health as well as your mood?

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Music engages not only your auditory system but many other parts of your brain as well, including areas responsible for movement, language, attention, memory, and emotion. “There is no other stimulus on earth that simultaneously engages our brains as widely as music does,” says Brian Harris, certified neurologic music therapist at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. This global activation happens whether you listen to music, play an instrument, or sing — even informally in the car or the shower, he says. Continue reading

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Filed under classical music, Exercise, heart, heart health brain health, music, music listening

How music and rhythm impact our brains – Study

As regular readers know I am a music lover with a wide range of tastes. One of my favorite aspects of bike riding is the bluetooth speaker on my water bottle that lets me listen to the tunes on my iPhone as I pedal along. When my daughter, now 23 years old, was a toddler, I remember watching music videos with her and enjoying – The wheels on the bus go round and round … – too many times to count. That and numerous other tunes provided a regular source of engagement and enjoyment for her. At the time it just seemed like a fun thing to share with her. But, it seems she was getting a lot more out of it than I knew, according to a study presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society (CNS) meeting in Boston.

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A universal sign of motherhood is the lullaby. The world over, mothers sing to their babies, whether Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, their favorite song from the radio, or even random notes. This universality makes the simple lullaby a great window into the human mind. In a new study, cognitive neuroscientists found that lullabies soothe both moms and babies simultaneously, while play songs increase babies’ attention and displays of positive emotion toward their mothers.

The behavioral implications of music are vast, says Laura Cirelli of the University of Toronto Mississauga, who presented the new work on maternal singing at the 25th meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. “Infant brains must be able to track auditory events in a predictive manner to make sense of music,” she explains, and many complex things are going on in their brains to make that possible.

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Miles between Davis and Mozart: Brains of Jazz and Classical Musicians Work Differently

Music is one of the great joys of my life. I have a bluetooth speaker on my bike and I listen to music on my daily rides. My iPhone has about 15 gigabytes of jazz, classics and classic rock so I have the entire spectrum available. Consuming music, however, is not the same as producing it.

Different processes occur in the brains of jazz and classical pianists while playing the same piece of music, researchers report in Neuroscience News.

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Keith Jarret, world-famous jazz pianist, once answered in an interview when asked if he would ever be interested in doing a concert where he would play both jazz and classical music: “No, that’s hilarious. […] It’s like a chosen practically impossible thing […] It’s [because of] the circuitry. Your system demands different circuitry for either of those two things.” Where non-specialists tend to think that it should not be too challenging for a professional musician to switch between styles of music, such as jazz and classical, it is actually not as easy as one would assume, even for people with decades of experience.

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The magic of music – Infographic

I am such a music lover it is a wonder that in my 77 years I never learned to play an instrument. One of the happiest discoveries I have made in the past two years was when I found a water bottle with blue tooth speaker on top. It has been an integral part of my bike riding every day since then. Herewith an infographic on music from takelessons.com

Have you ever thought about how awesome music is? The joy of performing and listening to music forms a universal language that connects us across cultures and across time.

And yet despite how universal the experience of music is, there’s still a lot we don’t know about its effects on our bodies and minds. In fact, the famed anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once said that music is “the supreme mystery of human knowledge.”

Mysterious though it may be, scientists have discovered some interesting theories for the most common musical phenomena that we all experience. For example, why do songs get stuck in your head? What’s the effect of music on memory?

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The day before you came … Abba

I guess it is appropriate to write a music post immediately following yesterday’s post on music having a powerful effect on the brain. I have been a music lover all of my life. I spent the year 1977 in London on assignment with Reuters News Service. It so happens that Abba was among the hottest groups going at that time and I listened to tons of their music. Also became a very big fan. I still play it on my iPhone while riding my bike.

But, the Day before you came is something special. It was one of their later tunes and not typical of their cheery upbeat melodies. I am sure it is my favorite of their entire catalog. Speaking for myself, I have definitely experienced the feeling of this song, how my life went on in its mundane fashion UNTIL I encountered this very special person. Then everything changed, like someone turned the lights on in a dark room.

Anyway, click the link and enjoy the beautiful Agnetha’s voice. I confess to having  had a crush on her for years.

Tony

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Music Has Powerful (and Visible) Effects on the Brain

Regular readers know by now that I am a music lover. I have listened to it all my life. I remember the little radio we had back in the 1940’s when I was growing up. Cut to today when I have a bluetooth speaker on my bike that plays music from the iPhone in my pocket. So, I was thrilled to learn how music has positive impacts on my brain.

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It doesn’t matter if it’s Bach, the Beatles, Brad Paisley or Bruno Mars. Your favorite music likely triggers a similar type of activity in your brain as other people’s favorites do in theirs.

That’s one of the things Jonathan Burdette, M.D., has found in researching music’s effects on the brain.

“Music is primal. It affects all of us, but in very personal, unique ways,” said Burdette, a neuroradiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Your interaction with music is different than mine, but it’s still powerful.

“Your brain has a reaction when you like or don’t like something, including music. We’ve been able to take some baby steps into seeing that, and ‘dislike’ looks different than ‘like’ and much different than ‘favorite.’”

To study how music preferences might affect functional brain connectivity – the interactions among separate areas of the brain – Burdette and his fellow investigators used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which depicts brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow. Scans were made of 21 people while they listened to music they said they most liked and disliked from among five genres (classical, country, rap, rock and Chinese opera) and to a song or piece of music they had previously named as their personal favorite. Continue reading

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Music, meditation may improve early cognitive decline – MNT

Meditation and music listening programs have shown promise in improving measures of cognitive and memory in adults with subjective cognitive decline, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Emerging evidence indicates that subjective cognitive decline (SCD) could represent a pre-clinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, or unhealthy brain aging. Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million people in the United States.

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Dr. Kim Innes, associate professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University in Morgantown, and colleagues aimed to assess the effects of two mind-body practices – Kirtan Kriya meditation and music listening – on cognitive outcomes in people with SCD.

Kirtan Kriya is a form of yoga meditation that combines focused breathing practices, singing or chanting, finger movements, and visualization. Practitioners of yoga claim that this type of meditation stimulates all of a person’s senses and the associated brain areas.

Meditation and music listening programs have shown promise in improving measures of cognitive and memory in adults with subjective cognitive decline, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Listening to music or taking part in meditation could improve memory and cognitive function among people with SCD.

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Almost Famous – Tiny Dancer

*This is slightly off the beaten health path, but I enjoyed this movie so much that I wanted to share it with you. Briefly, I am a member of Amazon Prime and buy a lot of things from them thus saving me the time and trouble of going out to stores ( also saving shipping costs ).* I have heard that about half the households in the U.S. are Prime members, so it is about even money that you too can enjoy this video for no cost as I did.

I got an email from Amazon the other day mentioning that I had access to dozens, maybe hundreds, of movies and TV shows at no cost on my Prime membership. I clicked on their link and started selecting movies for my Watchlist. There was Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe’s wonderful film from the year 2000 about a high school-aged journalist writing a piece for Rolling Stone after traveling with a rock group. I had seen it when it came out, but, that was nearly 20 years ago, so I selected it to watch.

Here is a look at what Wikipedia had to say about the movie.

Almost Famous is a 2000 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe, and starring Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit. It tells the fictional story of a teenage journalist writing for Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s while covering the fictitious rock band Stillwater, and his efforts to get his first cover story published. The film is semi-autobiographical, as Crowe himself was a teenage writer for Rolling Stone. Continue reading

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How music changes our perception of touch – MNT

Music is an integral part of my life. When I am not otherwise engaged, I am likely listening to music. That is definitely the case in my car. I opted to not get the sunroof because when it was open, I could not hear my music as clearly. Likewise, I have a water bottle with a bluetooth speaker on it so that I can listen to music while riding my bike. In terms of safety, I consider this vastly safer than wearing headphones which shut out ambient sound.

Music touches. Until recently, this was only meant in a figurative way—now it can also be taken literally. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have found that touch is perceived differently, depending on the music being played. The sexier we perceive the music we are listening to, the more sensual we experience the contact if we think we are touched by another person.

Be it Lima, Liverpool or Leipzig, is widespread in every culture on Earth. It can evoke a positive group feeling and may be substantial to help humans live in bigger groups than other primates. How this happens is still not completely known.

Scientists at Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig seem to have discovered an important part of the explanation: Music influences our perception of touch. “We have observed that the sexier we perceive music, the sexier we also perceive touch that is administered simultaneously,” study leader Tom Fritz explains.

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Learning with music can change brain structure – Study

As a guy who has had musical accompaniment to virtually everything he ever did, I was pleased to learn how it can affect the brain positively. One of my happiest recent discoveries was the bluetooth speaker that connects to the water bottle on my bike.

Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

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People who practiced a basic movement task to music showed increased structural connectivity between the regions of the brain that process sound and control movement.

The findings focus on white matter pathways — the wiring that enables brain cells to communicate with each other.

The study could have positive implications for future research into rehabilitation for patients who have lost some degree of movement control.

Thirty right-handed volunteers were divided into two groups and charged with learning a new task involving sequences of finger movements with the non-dominant, left hand. One group learned the task with musical cues, the other group without music.

After four weeks of practice, both groups of volunteers performed equally well at learning the sequences, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found.

Using MRI scans, it was found that the music group showed a significant increase in structural connectivity in the white matter tract that links auditory and motor regions on the right side of the brain. The non-music group showed no change.

Researchers hope that future study with larger numbers of participants will examine whether music can help with special kinds of motor rehabilitation program, such as after a stroke.

The interdisciplinary project brought together researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, Clinical Research Imaging Centre, and Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, and from Clinical Neuropsychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

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Exodus – Bob Marley’s Masterpiece

*I am a music lover, have been all my life, and I have written here about various compositions and productions that I enjoyed over the years. Exodus by Bob Marley is one of the most hypnotic pieces of music I have ever listened to. If it plays somewhere, I will hear it in my head for days later. I guess it has to be the beat because there seem to be only about eight words to the whole song.*

Exodus is the title song of a giant selling album of Marley from 1977. Rolling Stone reports, “The Marley Family, Island Records and UMe have announced a massive set of Exodus reissues to mark the 40th anniversary of Bob Marley & the Wailers’ landmark Exodus album, which was released on June 3, 1977.” So it is special to more than just me.

Here is part of what the Rolling Stone reviewer said of the tune back then.  “Exodus doesn’t reach these heights, nor does it seem to aim for them, save on the seven-minute title performance, which sounds like War on a slow day and wears out long before it is half over. If I didn’t have more faith in Marley I’d think he was trying to go disco — the tune is that mechanical.” 

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Album cover

The following is from the Oberlin College Library – Radical thinkers and movements in the Caribbean by David V. Moskowitz

While the lyrics are very poignant, the structure of the song itself also enforces the song’s motivational purpose.  Both the bass and guitar provide a driving groove that feels like it’s constantly moving forward. This stands in stark contrast to the float-y feel that many attribute to a stereotypical reggae song.  Additionally, the song’s central repeating verse “Exodus: movement of Jah people” is sung by a chorus in addition to Marley which makes it easy to sing along. Singing along with a piece of music calls attention to the lyrics in a much deeper way than does passively listening. Repeating the lyrics to oneself forces one to analyze and interpret their meaning. Furthermore, many songs used politically have lyrics that are poignant but also easy to commit to memory and sing in a group. “Exodus” has a very simple song structure that lends itself to this purpose. It is unknown whether or not Bob Marley intended this song to become a political anthem, but the structure of the song implies Marley made it to be easily accessible.”

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I do.

Tony

 

PS I published this originally on my other blog willingwheeling.wordpress.com but wasn’t able to reblog it here.

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What about that hot waitress?

I have eaten my share of meals out in restaurants, big and small, high and low. Part of the enjoyment of dining out is, of course, being served by someone else and not having to worry about preparing the food or cleaning up afterwards. I also must confess that I have often paid more attention than necessary to an attractive waitress. For the longest time, I kind of considered this my own dirty little secret. However, in the course of riding my bike over the past few months and listening to music on the blue tooth speaker on my water bottle, I have come to realize that I am not alone when it comes to lusting after a waitress. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

Herewith three tunes from over the years about a hot waitress.

The most recent, in my experience, but by no means actually recent, the intoxicating beat of “I wanna get next to you” by Rose Royce from the movie Car Wash. The narrator bemoans “Girl, you make me feel so insecure; you’re so beautiful and pure.” I also think that the opening notes to this song totally rock. Once great bass line.

Next is by the redoubtable Louis Prima who eats ‘…antipasto twice because she is so nice …” She being Angelina. Prima was the consummate entertainer who was won of the premier headliners in Las Vegas in its early years. Sadly, I couldn’t find a version showing him belting this tune out.

This offering was by one of my countrymen, Hazel’s Hips by Oscar Brown, Jr., who grew up on Chicago’s south side. Oscar describes the ‘concert of contours and curves as she slips to and fro round the tables she serves …”

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. By all means feel free to offer any songs I may have overlooked on the subject.

Tony

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Sing, Sing, Sing

I am tempted to say that this is for my younger readers as they are unlikely to have experienced the song – Sing, Sing, Sing. But, then I realize that probably more than 95 percent of you are younger than I am. So, this is for all of you.

*Another of the seminal songs in my musical upbringing is the famous Sing, Sing, Sing, written and performed by Louis Prima. I probably heard it at home on the radio because my father was a fan of Prima who had recorded it in March 1936. I became more aware of the song in my later years after hearing the Benny Goodman version at his famous 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert.*

In case you are unfamiliar with Louis Prima, here is what Wikipedia has to say, “Louis Prima (December 7, 1910 – August 24, 1978) was an Italian-American singer, actor, songwriter, bandleader, and trumpeter. While rooted in New Orleans jazz, swing music, and jump blues, Prima touched on various genres throughout his career: he formed a seven-piece New Orleans-style jazz band in the late 1920s, fronted a swing combo in the 1930s and a big band group in the 1940s, helped to popularize jump blues in the late 1940s and early to mid 1950s, and performed as a Vegas lounge act in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Louis Prima version 1937

“From the 1940s through the 1960s, his music further encompassed early R&B and rock’n’roll, boogie-woogie, and even Italian folk music, such as the tarantella. Prima made prominent use of Italian music and language in his songs, blending elements of his Italian identity with jazz and swing music. At a time when “ethnic” musicians were often discouraged from openly stressing their ethnicity, Prima’s conspicuous embrace of his Italian ethnicity opened the doors for other Italian-American and “ethnic” American musicians to display their ethnic roots.”

Of course, to my unsophisticated ear, the most stunning performance on the piece was the pulsing, primal Gene Krupa drum solo. It wasn’t till I was older that I got into appreciating the wonderful Benny Goodman clarinet work as well.

Here is what Wikipedia has to offer on the song: In their 1966 book Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya: The Story Of Jazz As Told By The Men Who Made It, music critics Nat Shapiro and Nat Hentoff quote Goodman as saying, “‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ (which we started doing back at the Palomar on our second trip there in 1936) was a big thing, and no one-nighter was complete without it.” Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall jazz concert was different from the commercial release and from subsequent performances with the Goodman band. The personnel of the Goodman band for the Carnegie Hall concert were the same as in the 1937 recording session, except Vernon Brown replaced Murray McEachern on trombone, and Babe Russin replaced Vido Musso on tenor sax.

12 Min Version From Carnegie Hall 1938

I wanted to include this last one because seeing two other extremely gifted artists add their interpretation to it adds a further level of enjoyment. And, who doesn’t love Fred and Ginger?

Tony

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