From exploring the neuroscience behind the music-evoked emotions

to debunking the “Mozart Effect,” we have seen a plethora of exciting research that is bridging the world between music and science. And there is further evidence that music is becoming a very integral part in the future of neuroscience. An increasing number of labs are devoting their research to music and the effects it has on the brain, and several institutions have even specially devoted departments and facilities towards music-neuroscience research.

...there is further evidence that music is becoming a very integral part in the future of neuroscience.

Established in 2006 by Antonio and Hanna Damasio, the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI) is one such institution with the mission to “uncover the neurological basis for a large array of mental functions -- from emotion and decision-making to the creativity expressed in the arts, sciences and technology.” And the design of the building reflects just that. Sitting right beside the laboratories equipped with state of the art magnetic resonance imaging machines is the Joyce J. Cammilleri Hall, a classical auditorium devoted to musical and theatrical performances. Here, Yo-Yo Ma sat with his cello and faced Dr. Antonio Damasio while they engaged in a spontaneous discussion about music’s role in reducing pain and increasing joy.


 Yo-Yo Ma discusses the therapeutic role of music with Dr. Antonio Damasio

Yo-Yo Ma discusses the therapeutic role of music with Dr. Antonio Damasio

But that’s not all the world renowned cellist is doing. In collaboration with the BCI, Yo-Yo Ma is advising the “Music and Brain Program,” a five year study dedicated to investigating the effects of early musical training on the developing human brain. By partnering with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles the BCI and it’s missions give hope for the future of music-neuroscience research.

...music programs provide a form of auditory enrichment that counteracts some of the adversities of growing up in a disadvantaged environment...

Up in Chicago, Dr. Nina Kraus and her Auditory Neuroscience Lab are investigating music and its effects on neuroplasticity, language, and auditory attention. A recent study published by her lab investigated the effects of music on neuroplasticity and language development in children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The lab discovered that children who were more engaged (attendance/participation) in music programs developed stronger brain encoding for speech after two ears than their less-engaged peers. This research is revolutionizing the role of music in early education and suggests that music programs provide a form of auditory enrichment that counteracts some of the adversities of growing up in a disadvantaged environment. Music is seen to have a lasting impact on child health and wellness through the developmental years and into adulthood.

The BCI and Dr. Kraus’s Lab are just two examples of the many programs and institutes dedicated to investigating the music’s effects on the brain. With an increasing number of young passionate researchers hoping to combine their interest in music with their career in science, the future of music-neuroscience research seems bright and promising!

Resources

1. Who we are. http://dornsife.usc.edu/bci/our-mission/ (accessed 3/11/15), part of USC Dornsife Brain and Creativity Institute

2. Johnson, P. The edge effect - when music meets neuroscience. https://news.usc.edu/54709/the-edge-effect-where-music-meets-neuroscience/ (accessed 3/11/15), part of USC News

3. Kraus, N.; Hornicke, J.; Strait, D.; Slater, J.; Thompson, E. Engagement in community music classes sparks neuroplasticity and language development in children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Fronteris in Psychology 2014, 5, 1403.

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