Music and the Brain – Newton Street Study Guide to the brain

Music and the Brain

How does music work in our brains?

Why do humans like music?

Is the pleasure we receive from music all there is to it?

Lots of intelligent and interesting people have spent their working lives trying to figure the answers to these questions.  Among the most powerful of revelations concerning music is that we can powerfully shape our physiological and psychological experience by playing music.


Are we Hard Wired to Respond to Certain Kinds of Music?


Questions and Answers

Why does music make us feel good?

Our brains are amazing pattern processors. We love to find patterns. It is because music both offers and frustrates our ability to hear patterns that we derive pleasure from music.  Jonah Lehrer of Wired Magazine describes exactly how that happens in the brain in, The Neuroscience of Music.

Is music processed in the same way as language?

No. And Yes. Well Maybe. Charles Limb, musician and neurosurgeon addresses this issue in his TED talk, This is Your Brain on Improv. Ani Patel of the Neuroscience Institute expands on the idea in this Smithsonian Lecture Series on the brain and music, The Music of Language and the Language of Music.


How are the brains of musicians different from those of non-musicians?


from Ardon Schor, TEDx CMU

Can adults learn to play music?

It’s not too late. Read this BrainPickings review of Guitar Zero. The author, Gary Marcus, is a neuroscientist interested in debunking the myth that music making skills can only truly be acquired by children.

Want to start experimenting with sounds immediately? Duke University neuroscientist Dale Purves allows you to play with notions of pitch and tone here.

Can brain science help people to understand music?

In this TEDx Carnegie Mellon talk, Ardon Shorr uses cognitive theory to help listeners understand classical music

What to read next?

How Music Moves Through the Brain

The Benefits of Learning to Play Music

The Benefits of Listening to Music