How music rewires the brain
Introduction & Excerpts (via Dana Foundation)
“Evidence continues to grow that musical training may not only serve as a powerful tool for treating mental illnesses but may also rewire the brain to be more nimble at learning math and other subjects.”
“Music making engages quite a lot of real estate in the brain,” he said. “We wanted to know if everyone has the potential to become an accomplished musician, or if [musicians] start off with an atypical brain.”
In adults, for instance, he said, musicians with a long history of practice tend to have bigger corpus callosa—the bundles of fibers that connect the right and left halves of the brain—as well as enhanced motor and auditory processing areas than do non-musicians. Many of these changes were specific to the primary type of instrument used by a musician. But everyone seems able to benefit: Adult non-musicians who took a crash course in piano showed changes in their sequencing, musical and math abilities even after just two weeks.
Additional information (via Dana Foundation)
Schlaug also presented a video showing how extensive rhythm and singing therapy helped a four-year old boy with autism speak his very first words. “Music,” Schlaug said, “may provide alternative entry into broken brain systems that may not be linking up properly.” (The use of music for autism is just the tip of the iceberg; music is also being used as treatment for spinal cord injuries, stroke and other conditions. Look for more extensive coverage of these therapies in the coming weeks.)
Schlaug’s presentation was the final “Music and the Brain” lecture of 2009. The series, presented by the Library of Congress and the Dana Foundation, will resume on Jan. 21 with “Music, Memories, and the Brain,” in which Petr Janata of the University of California, Davis, will outlining brain imaging results from people who have experienced musical “trances.” As an early Christmas present, the LOC has released free podcasts of earlier lectures in the series.