July 2014 | Categories: Music Lessons & Brain
Did you know that every time musicians pick up their instruments, there are fireworks going off all over their brain? On the outside, they may look calm and focused, reading the music and making the precise and practiced movements required. But inside their brains, there’s a party going on.
How do we know this? Well, in the last few decades, neuroscientists have made enormous breakthroughs in understanding how our brains work by monitoring them in real time with instruments like fMRI and PET scanners. When people are hooked up to these machines, tasks, such as reading or doing math problems, each have corresponding areas of the brain where activity can be observed.
But when researchers got the participants to listen to music, they saw fireworks. Multiple areas of their brains were lighting up at once, as they processed the sound, took it apart to understand elements like melody and rhythm, and then put it all back together into unified musical experience. And our brains do all this work in the split second between when we first hear the music and when our foot starts to tap along.