Your Brain on Music


Brain With Headset

Music is as old as humankind. It is one of the earliest teachers. Primitive tribes used drums to communicate with other tribes, and Aboriginal Australians still keep their history alive through the musical tradition of the songline. Music helps guide our emotions through such milestones as marriage, death, and birth. It is much more important than most people realize, and can provide tremendous benefits to someone with dyslexia.

Remember learning your alphabet by singing “ABCD”? Or clapping to nursery rhymes and playing marching games? It is no surprise, with what we know today in the field of the various fields of neuroscience, that many progressive therapies include rhythm and music in their efforts to help rewire and improve the brain. It is a shame that many of the schools are cutting budgets to this essential component of learning.

Whether you perform on stage or behind a shower curtain, everyone is “musically inclined”. Everyone has a favorite band, or a favorite song. Music has been with us since the dawn of time; since we were in the womb with the heartbeat of our mother being the first instrument. Add to that the waves of the ocean and the rustling wind and you have a pretty sweet orchestra with a pretty groovy beat!

Beat or rhythm is the foundation for the organization of notes into sequences that can be repeated and performed in a group. Without it, there is randomness and chaos. It is the glue that carries us with anticipation for the next strong downbeat, dividing time into increments creating predictability and security. Did you know that patients with damage to the left hemisphere of the brain can lose the ability to perceive and produce rhythm? Those with right hemisphere damage have issues with perceiving melodies.

So how does the brain perceive music?

In his book This is Your Brain on Music, Daniel Levitin, ex-musician and record producer turned neuroscientist, says that in his laboratory for Musical Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University, he found strong activations in his subjects’ cerebellums while listening to music but not to noise. The cerebellum, the oldest part of the brain evolutionarily, has traditionally been thought of as the part of the brain that guides movement – think of the caveman unconsciously grasping, reaching, running in response to his survival instincts. The cerebellum, according to Levitin, appears to be tracking the beat, the rhythm in music. It is prominent when in helping performers and conductors maintain a constant tempo.

What Our Brain Looks Like When It Listens to Music by Robert Zatorre and Valorie Salimpoor’s, neuroscientists and researchers who for over a decade have been exploring the relationship between music and its impact on the human brain.

What Our Brain Looks Like When It Listens to Music by Robert Zatorre and Valorie Salimpoor’s, neuroscientists and researchers who for over a decade have been exploring the relationship between music and its impact on the human brain.


But what about the way music makes you feel?

In Levitin’s studies, as well as those of Harvard professor Jeremy Schmahmann, it was also found that while listening to music, the cerebellum is strongly connected to the emotional centers of the brain – the amygdala, which is involved in remembering emotional events, and the frontal lobe, the part of the brain involved in planning and impulse control. In later studies, they found that listening to music that created “thrills and chills” caused a cascade of brain regions to become activated in a particular order: first the auditory cortex (sound components), then

the frontal regions (musical structure and expectation) and finally the mesolimbic system (arousal, pleasure) that released opioids and the production of dopamine culminating in the activation of the nucleus accumbens.


So how does dyslexia fit in?

According to Dr. Books, who is a proponent of brain-synchronization by means of first addressing the primitive brain (which includes the cerebellum), music can be greatly beneficial for a developing brain and for a brain with neural gaps due to physical trauma (motor function) or emotional trauma (limbic). By engaging in rhythmic, sonic and emotionally engaging activity, the brain that has trouble reading and recognizing sounds can have a better chance of being freed, re-charged and re-wired. Music seems to address all areas of the brain connections. As Levitin says, “the story of the your brain on music, is the story of an exquisite orchestration of brain regions, involving both the oldest and newest parts of the human brain, and regions as far apart as the cerebellum in the back of the head and the frontal lobes just behind your eyes. It involves a precision choreography of neurochemical release and uptake between logical prediction systems and emotional reward systems. Your brain on music… is all about connections.”

Forest_Campfire_Animal_BandWith Books Neural Therapy™, Dr. Phyllis Books’ therapy for learning and behavioral issues like dyslexia and ADHD, these brain connections are made to sing together in harmony once again. In a brain/body where the record has been skipping for some time, BNT can get them back “in the groove”!

CLICK HERE to listen to our picks of

“Music For The Soundtrack of Life”


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