Radiologist Explores Effects of Music on Brain Connectivity
A new study revealed that one’s music preference has a powerful effect on brain functional activity.
According to Jonathan Burdette, M.D., a musician and a radiologist by profession, the brain triggers a reaction when people listen to their favorite songs and to music they dislike. Although the effect is unique for every individual, the study asserted that one’s music preference particularly listening to a favorite song, triggers a similar type of activity in one’s brain as other people’s favorites do in theirs. The brain triggers the same reaction with others when they like or dislike the music as well.
Burdette is a music enthusiast who grew up playing viola, piano and guitar. He is also a singer and an opera conductor.
The Study and Key Results
By using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Burdette and his team were able to gather data on how music preferences might affect functional brain connectivity. The team invited 21 people to be involved in the study.
Brain scans were made from the respondents while they listened to varied types of music that range from most liked and disliked from among five genres (classical, country, rap, rock and Chinese opera). Aside from that, the respondents listened to their favorite song as well.
The results were very interesting. The teams found a consistent pattern base from the fMRI scans. Listening to music which is not the listeners’ preferences had the greatest impact on brain connectivity especially on a brain circuit known to be involved in internally focused thought, empathy and self-awareness. This circuit, otherwise known as the default mode network, was poorly connected when the participants were listening to the music they disliked. In contrast, the circuit is better connected when listening to music they liked and the most connected when listening to their favorites.
Based on the consistent patterns, Burgette and his team came up with a significant implication.
Burgette said, “Given that music preferences are uniquely individualized phenomena and that music can vary in acoustic complexity and the presence or absence of lyrics, the consistency of our results was unexpected. These findings may explain why comparable emotional and mental states can be experienced by people listening to music that differs as widely as Beethoven and Eminem.”
The Power of Music
With the assertion that music has the ability to trigger reactions in the participants’ brains, Burgette also recognized the therapeutic role of music. In fact, Burgette is also interested to venture into music’s clinical applications.
“Music isn’t going to cure anything, but it definitely can play a therapeutic role,” he said.
Burgette cited that music therapy is also integrated into the rehabilitation process for people who have had strokes, brain surgery or traumatic brain injuries.
“If you’re trying to restore neuroplasticity in the brain, to re-establish some of the connections that were there before the injury, music can be a big help, and I’d like to see it used more widely in this country,” he said.