This is your brain on jazz (updated)


Scientists inspired by the legendary improv of Miles Davis and John Coltrane are peering inside the brains of today’s jazz musicians to learn where creativity comes from.

This isn’t just a curiosity for jazz fans but a bold experiment in the neuroscience of music, a field that’s booming as researchers realize that music illuminates how the brain works. How we play and hear music provides a window into most everyday cognitive functions — from attention to emotion to memory — that in turn may help find treatments for brain disorders.

Getting creative seems to use the same brain circuitry that has been measured during dreaming:

• First, inhibition switched off. The scientists watched a brain region responsible for that self-monitoring, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, shut down.

• Then self-expression switched on. A smaller area called the medial prefrontal cortex fired up.

• The musicians in the study also showed heightened sensory awareness. Regions involved with touch, hearing and sight revved up during improv even though no one touched or saw anything different, and the only new sounds were ones they created.

Can you imagine watching a Thelonious Monk gig on MRI? Read the full article here.

-via Detroit Free Press, H/T Clara

UPDATE: Testing the theory — Bingbing’s contribution. My contribution. More suggestions welcome!

2 Responses to “This is your brain on jazz (updated)”

  1. Rebecca H Says:

    What a cool article. When I’m having a bad day, I can always make it better by popping on the earphones and slipping in my favorite music. It also helps me when I’m carving, or doing the elliptical, kind of takes me outside myself. So I’m not surprised that music can be used therapeutically as well.

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