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Stanford study shows different brains have similar responses to music
Date:4/11/2013

of a musical stimulus over time periods lasting up to several seconds, with each region processing information according to its own time scale.

Activity levels in several different places in the brain responded similarly from one individual to the next to music, but less so or not at all to pseudo-music. While these brain structures have been implicated individually in musical processing, their identifications had been obtained by probing with artificial laboratory stimuli, not real music. Nor had their coordination with one another been previously observed.

Notably, subcortical auditory structures in the midbrain and thalamus showed significantly greater synchronization in response to musical stimuli. These structures have been thought to passively relay auditory information to higher brain centers, Menon said. "But if they were just passive relay stations, their responses to both types of pseudo-music would have been just as closely synchronized between individuals as to real music." The study demonstrated, for the first time, that those structures' activity levels respond preferentially to music rather than to pseudo-music, suggesting that higher-level centers in the cortex direct these relay stations to closely heed sounds that are specifically musical in nature.

The fronto-parietal cortex, which anchors high-level cognitive functions including attention and working memory, also manifested intersubject synchronization but only in response to music and only in the right hemisphere.

Interestingly, the structures involved included the right-brain counterparts of two important structures in the brain's left hemisphere, Broca's and Geschwind's areas, known to be crucial for speech and language interpretation.

"These right-hemisphere brain areas track non-linguistic stimuli such as music in the same way that the left hemisphere tracks linguistic sequences," said Menon.

In any single individual listening to music
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Contact: Bruce Goldman
goldmanb@stanford.edu
650-725-2106
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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