By Avis Cardella
When H says he listens to music because, “It’s a meditation thing—a way of focusing the mind on just one thing,”—my curiosity is piqued.
Can the mind respond singularly to music? Are there music specific pathways in the brain?
A New York Times journalist asked this question and submitted herself to the scientific answer with the help of experts at the esteemed, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Writer, and music lover, Natalie Angier, allowed researchers to scan her brain while listening to various sounds and fragments of music using functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI.
The conclusion: “Inside a major groove, or sulcus, that runs through the auditory cortex there was a ‘hot spot of music selectivity.’”
Who knew brain science could sound so sexy?
The researchers were so impressed with the results, they plan to explore further, posing relevant questions such as, does the “hot spot” of musicians react differently?
They’ll also be scanning children of different ages to determine when musical attentiveness first appears in the brain.
For P, a brain scan isn’t necessary to recall his first attraction to music. “I always had a 1950’s style radio next to my bed as a child, “ he explains. “ It all stems from that.”
By the time he was a teenager, he was doing “nearly everything with music in the background.”
Today, you can still find P immersed in music, although with a slight twist. His work building turntables means he’s “always listening for what’s wrong.”
D’s introduction to music occurred in his youth, as well. He describes his childhood spent in Senegal as the “root” of his listening. That’s when he became acquainted with dance, and rhythm.
“Something touched me, “ he says, of this early and somewhat exotic musical introduction. “I’ve kept that sense of rhythm, and became conscious of what music can do.”
What can music do? Influence our moods? Help us meditate? Focus? Light up hot spots?
Researchers might end up investigating these questions, and more, in their quest to unlock the brain’s secrets.
In the meantime, D seems to have reached a conclusion with some (unscientific) research of his own.
“I listen to music to enter another universe,” he says with a smile.