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Music and the Brain, Part 2

  • Oct 12, 2010
  • Dianna Babcock & Cheryl Henningsgaard

Welcome back to MacPhail’s Musical Story Telling Blog. There are two blogs with information about music’s effect on brain functioning. The first blog in the series focused on the effects music has on the outside brain – cortex areas. This second blog will focus on the music’s effects on the inside of the brain.


Many of our readers have shared they would like more information on the influences of music on the brain. We are excited to share with our reading audience cutting-edge research featured in the August 14, 2010 article, “Your Brain on Music” published in Science News. Below is some vital information obtained from the article.

Your Brain On Music:
Based on MRI and PET scan readings, music lightens up and influences almost every area of the brain. Music encourages recollections of vivid memories, promotes movement and increases endorphins to raise our spirits.

Inside the Brain:
Cerebellum: The cerebellum’s role is in the timing and synchrony of music. This part of the brain also associated with emotions. This part of the brain lights up when familiar or likable music is played, and appears to sense the difference between the sounds of different types of chords (major, minor).

Hippocampus: This is the part of the brain that is associated with long-term memory. Brain memories are retrieved when specific learned melodies or sounds are heard. It also helps people link or associated memories with particular music. This part of the brain is also activated when the music is personally pleasant or emotionally charged.

Amygdala: This part of the brain also seems to be involved with musical memories. It reacts differently to different chordal structure sounds, and also is appeased with the sounds of skillful repetition.

Nucleus Accumbens: Thought to be the center of the reward system, this part of the brain structure is thought to release dopamine as it is subjective to music that is emotionally appealing to the listener.

©MacPhail Center for Music, 2010


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