Mind music
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Mind music

It is a known fact that music triggers powerful recollections, but now a brain-scan study actually shows the part of our brain in which it happens. Parag Kamani tells more.

music Updated: Apr 14, 2009 18:48 IST
Parag Kamani
Parag Kamani
Hindustan Times

It is a known fact that music triggers powerful recollections, but now a brain-scan study actually shows the part of our brain in which it happens. While this is correctly labelled as a medical discovery.. for me, as a music listener, it is more fascinating to learn how pieces of familiar music bring back memories, often resulting in visually seeing the place or person in your mind.

Experiment in music
The University Of California appointed 13 subjects, who were placed under a functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) brain scanner and made to listen to 30 different songs selected randomly from the Billboard “Top 100” singles chart from a period when the participants would have been eight to 18 years old. Effectively.. popular songs from their childhood.

The participants signalled to the researchers whenever a 30-second music sample trigged a memory, based on whether the tune was familiar, enjoyable, or tied to a specific event. When the subjects also filled details of their memories immediately following the FMRI sessions, 17 out of the 30 samples, on average, were recognised.

Triggering memories
The music that the students said evoked the strongest memories was also the music that brought about the most emotional responses in them.

Music’s relationship to memory confirms what many might already have taken for granted. While we may all find ourselves listening to a particular song and reminiscing the past, these studies have a much broader implication. For me, the most significant aspect of this study is for those suffering from degenerating diseases –– such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s, or brain injuries –– where patients can be made to listen to customized play lists to help them recall places, people, or incidents from the past despite memory loss.

Exploring ways in which music can be used to help such individuals will have a profound impact on the treatment for such patients.

Effective therapy
My suggestion is based on independent research that shows that even if patients suffer from memory loss, they tend to
sing-along or perk up whenever they listen to familiar songs. Further, just as each individual’s unique musical tastes differ, music therapists must look closely at their patients to decide which music would be most effective in their therapy.

In the past, music therapy has often been marginalized as a method of treatment.

However, as people become more aware of the link existing between music and degenerating diseases and, while there is no denying that it will never reverse the trend, it can certainly be utilised to make the quality of patients’ lives better.

First Published: Apr 14, 2009 17:27 IST