Posts Tagged ‘music’

When we listen to music, we often tap our feet or bob our head along to the beat – but why do we do it? New research led by Western Sydney University’s MARCS Institute suggests the reason could be related to the way our brain processes low-frequency sounds.

The study, published in PNAS, recorded the electrical activity of volunteers’ brains while they listened to rhythmic patterns played at either low or high-pitched tones. The study found that while listening, volunteer’s brain activities and the rhythmic structure of the sound became synchronized – particularly at the frequency of the beat.

Co-author of the paper, Dr Sylvie Nozaradan from the MARCS Institute, say these findings strongly suggest that the bass exploits a neurophysiological mechanism in the brain – essentially forcing it to lock onto the beat.

“There is mounting evidence supporting the hypothesis that selective synchronization of large pools of neurons of the brain to the beat frequency may support perception and movement to the musical beat”, says Dr Nozaradan.

While this research is an important step in answering the mystery of why we ‘dance to the beat of the drum’, according to co-author Dr Peter Keller from the MARCS Institute, these findings could also prove important in clinical rehabilitation.

“Music is increasingly being used in clinical rehabilitation of cognitive and motor disorders caused by brain damage and these findings, and a better understanding of the relationship between music and movement, could help develop such treatments,” says Dr Keller.

The research team – also comprising of co-authors Dr Manuel Varlet and Tomas Lenc – suggests that while this research is an important step in understanding the relationship between bass and movement, there are still many open questions about the mechanisms behind this phenomenon.

“Future research is needed to clarify what networks of brain areas are responsible for this synchronization to the beat and how it develops from early in infancy” says Dr Nozaradan.

https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/newscentre/news_centre/more_news_stories/new_research_suggests_its_all_about_the_bass

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Paul McCartney and John Lennon wrote songs for The Beatles under Lennon-McCartney, but a new statistical model can be used to tell who actually took the lead.

Lennon-McCartney is likely one of the most famous songwriting credits in music. John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote lyrics and music for almost 200 songs and The Beatles have sold hundreds of millions of albums. The story goes that the two Beatles agreed as teenagers to the joint credit for all songs they wrote, no matter the divide in work.

Over the years, Lennon and McCartney have revealed who really wrote what, but some songs are still up for debate. The two even debate between themselves — their memories seem to differ when it comes to who wrote the music for 1965’s “In My Life.”

If the songwriters’ memories (perhaps tainted by the mind-altering era they were writing in) have failed, how can this mystery ever be solved? Well, we can get by with a little help from math.

Mathematics professor Jason Brown spent 10 years working with statistics to solve the magical mystery. Brown’s the findings were presented on Aug. 1 at the Joint Statistical Meeting in a presentation called “Assessing Authorship of Beatles Songs from Musical Content: Bayesian Classification Modeling from Bags-Of-Words Representations.”

Stanford University mathematician Keith Devlin breaks down how Brown figured it out. Read Devlin’s edited conversation with NPR’s Scott Simon below and listen at the audio link.

Scott Simon: I don’t understand “bags-of-words representations,” although, I’ve sometimes been called a bag of words by some.

Keith Devlin: We’ll get to that. First of all, just to say that this is really serious stuff in terms of what was done. The three co-authors of this paper — there was someone called Mark Glickman who was a statistician at Harvard. He’s also a classical pianist. Another person, another Harvard professor of engineering, called Ryan Song. And the third person was a Dalhousie University mathematician called Jason Brown. And you may recall back to 2008, you and I talked about him. He figured out how The Beatles created that striking opening chord in “Hard Day’s Night.” And when we did that piece, I actually said he was working on who wrote the music for “In My Life.” And 10 years later, here we are talking about the discovery. It took him a long time, but he’s now got it.

“Bags of words”? What are they?

It actually goes back to the 1950s. It’s used by the computer scientists who created spam filters. What you do is you take a piece of text, and you ignore the grammar, you ignore the word order, and you just regard it as a collection of words. And once you’ve done that, you can count the frequencies of the different words in the bag of words. To do it for music, you had to get little snippets, and the way they did that was the team analyzed, I think, about 70 songs from Lennon and McCartney, and they found there were 149 very distinct transitions between notes and chords that are present in almost all Beatles songs. And those transitions will be unique to one person or the other person.

So they’d be bags of notes and chords.

Bags of notes and chords, pairs of notes and chords. Those are the little items, and you just count them.

Part of the confusion is that Paul McCartney said he wrote the music. John Lennon said Paul McCartney wrote a section of music. So what did this trio of mathematicians detect?

Cutting to the chase, it turns out Lennon wrote the whole thing. When you do the math by counting the little bits that are unique to the people, the probability that McCartney wrote it was .018 — that’s essentially zero. In other words, this is pretty well definitive. Lennon wrote the music. And in situations like this, you’d better believe the math because it’s much more reliable than people’s recollections, especially given they collaborated writing it in the ’60s with an incredibly altered mental state due to all the stuff they were ingesting.

I know what you are saying.

I would go with mathematics.

Keith, alright, I ask you — what about the artistic process of collaboration? Isn’t it possible they were such close and accomplished collaborators that they inhaled a little bit of each other’s technique and Lennon could write like McCartney and McCartney like John Lennon?

For sure. And that’s why it’s hard for the human ear to tell the thing apart. It’s also hard for them to realize who did it and this is why actually the only reliable answer is the mathematics because no matter how much people collaborate, they’re still the same people, and they have their preferences without realizing it. Lennon would use certain kinds of things over and over again. So would McCartney. It was the collaboration. Those two things come together that works, but they were still separate little bits. The mathematics isolates those little bits that are unique to the two people.

https://www.npr.org/2018/08/11/637468053/a-songwriting-mystery-solved-math-proves-john-lennon-wrote-in-my-life?ft=nprml&f=1039

Ever get chills listening to a particularly moving piece of music? You can thank the salience network of the brain for that emotional joint. Surprisingly, this region also remains an island of remembrance that is spared from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the University of Utah Health are looking to this region of the brain to develop music-based treatments to help alleviate anxiety in patients with dementia. Their research will appear in the April online issue of The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“People with dementia are confronted by a world that is unfamiliar to them, which causes disorientation and anxiety” said Jeff Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in Radiology at U of U Health and contributing author on the study.“We believe music will tap into the salience network of the brain that is still relatively functioning.”

Previous work demonstrated the effect of a personalized music program on mood for dementia patients. This study set out to examine a mechanism that activates the attentional network in the salience region of the brain. The results offer a new way to approach anxiety, depression and agitation in patients with dementia. Activation of neighboring regions of the brain may also offer opportunities to delay the continued decline caused by the disease.

For three weeks, the researchers helped participants select meaningful songs and trained the patient and caregiver on how to use a portable media player loaded with the self-selected collection of music.

“When you put headphones on dementia patients and play familiar music, they come alive,” said Jace King, a graduate student in the Brain Network Lab and first author on the paper. “Music is like an anchor, grounding the patient back in reality.”

Using a functional MRI, the researchers scanned the patients to image the regions of the brain that lit up when they listened to 20-second clips of music versus silence. The researchers played eight clips of music from the patient’s music collection, eight clips of the same music played in reverse and eight blocks of silence. The researchers compared the images from each scan.

The researchers found that music activates the brain, causing whole regions to communicate. By listening to the personal soundtrack, the visual network, the salience network, the executive network and the cerebellar and corticocerebellar network pairs all showed significantly higher functional connectivity.

“This is objective evidence from brain imaging that shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease,” said Norman Foster, M.D., Director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Care at U of U Health and senior author on the paper.“Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses, but personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment.”

However, these results are by no means conclusive. The researchers note the small sample size (17 participants) for this study. In addition, the study only included a single imaging session for each patient. It is remains unclear whether the effects identified in this study persist beyond a brief period of stimulation or whether other areas of memory or mood are enhanced by changes in neural activation and connectivity for the long term.

“In our society, the diagnoses of dementia are snowballing and are taxing resources to the max,” Anderson said. “No one says playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care and improve a patient’s quality of life.”

https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/news/music-activation-of-salience-network-could-alleviate-anxiety-in-alzheimers-disease-300268?utm_campaign=Newsletter_TN_BreakingScienceNews&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=62522460&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9ihWyFIxhX4_ZqRqTTeOrNwa0ZHtTKERWsL_8k0sb5boN7jUkYGkdh9HwUwTgNxQfBVCpLL2CkwNk4uJpbMDlvKJPNJw&_hsmi=62522460

BY RACHEL EHRENBERG

Getting your groove on solo with headphones on might be your jam, but it can’t compare with a live concert. Just ask your brain. When people watch live music together, their brains waves synchronize, and this brain bonding is linked with having a better time.

The new findings, reported March 27 at a Cognitive Neuroscience Society meeting, are a reminder that humans are social creatures. In western cultures, performing music is generally reserved for the tunefully talented, but this hasn’t been true through much of human history. “Music is typically linked with ritual and in most cultures is associated with dance,” said neuroscientist Jessica Grahn of Western University in London, Canada. “It’s a way to have social participation.”

Study participants were split into groups of 20 and experienced music in one of three ways. Some watched a live concert with a large audience, some watched a recording of the concert with a large audience, and some watched the recording with only a few other people. Each person wore EEG caps, headwear covered with electrodes that measure the collective behavior of the brain’s nerve cells. The musicians played an original song they wrote for the study.

The delta brain waves of audience members who watched the music live were more synchronized than those of people in the other two groups. Delta brain waves fall in a frequency range that roughly corresponds to the beat of the music, suggesting that beat drives the synchronicity, neuroscientist Molly Henry, a member of Grahn’s lab, reported. The more synchronized a particular audience member was with others, the more he or she reported feeling connected to the performers and enjoying the show.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/brain-waves-concertgoers-sync-shows

By Ian Hamilton

For centuries, musicians have used drugs to enhance creativity and listeners have used drugs to heighten the pleasure created by music. And the two riff off each other, endlessly. The relationship between drugs and music is also reflected in lyrics and in the way these lyrics were composed by musicians, some of whom were undoubtedly influenced by the copious amounts of heroin, cocaine and “reefer” they consumed, as their songs sometimes reveal.

Acid rock would never have happened without LSD, and house music, with its repetitive 4/4 beats, would have remained a niche musical taste if it wasn’t for the wide availability of MDMA (ecstasy, molly) in the 1980s and 1990s.

And don’t be fooled by country music’s wholesome name. Country songs make more references to drugs than any other genre of popular music, including hip hop.

Under the influence

As every toker knows, listening to music while high can make it sound better. Recent research, however, suggests that not all types of cannabis produce the desired effect. The balance between two key compounds in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiols, influence the desire for music and its pleasure. Cannabis users reported that they experienced greater pleasure from music when they used cannabis containing cannabidiols than when these compounds were absent.

Listening to music – without the influence of drugs – is rewarding, can reduce stress (depending upon the type of music listened to) and improve feelings of belonging to a social group. But research suggests that some drugs change the experience of listening to music.

Clinical studies that have administered LSD to human volunteers have found that the drug enhances music-evoked emotion, with volunteers more likely to report feelings of wonder, transcendence, power and tenderness. Brain imaging studies also suggest that taking LSD while listening to music, affects a part of the brain leading to an increase in musically inspired complex visual imagery.

Certain styles of music match the effects of certain drugs. Amphetamine, for example, is often matched with fast, repetitive music, as it provides stimulation, enabling people to dance quickly. MDMA’s (ecstasy) tendency to produce repetitive movement and feelings of pleasure through movement and dance is also well known.

An ecstasy user describes the experience of being at a rave:

“I understood why the stage lights were bright and flashing, and why trance music is repetitive; the music and the drug perfectly complemented one another. It was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes and I could finally see what everyone else was seeing. It was wonderful.”

There is a rich representation of drugs in popular music, and although studies have shown higher levels of drug use in listeners of some genres of music, the relationship is complex. Drug representations may serve to normalise use for some listeners, but drugs and music are powerful ways of strengthening social bonds. They both provide an identity and a sense of connection between people. Music and drugs can bring together people in a political way, too, as the response to attempts to close down illegal raves showed.

People tend to form peer groups with those who share their own cultural preferences, which may be symbolised through interlinked musical and substance choices. Although there are some obvious synergies between some music and specific drugs, such as electronic dance music and ecstasy, other links have developed in less obvious ways. Drugs are one, often minor, component of a broader identity and an important means of distinguishing the group from others.

Although it is important not to assume causality and overstate the links between some musical genres and different types of drug use, information about preferences is useful in targeting and tailoring interventions, such as harm reduction initiatives, at music festivals.

https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/articles/music-and-drugs-scientists-explain-the-link-296886?utm_campaign=NEWSLETTER_TN_Neuroscience_2017&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=60340987&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–WbyIooqediqm4Mr6D09zjNCyCmjIe-6JF5OpygCiR3HaX93JSj3dyP1fGYyKLhvXSaI-EheJTPpuOIN_2UXpdsA4ewg&_hsmi=60340987

An Australian study involving 1000 people has concluded that people who regularly go to concerts are happier with their lives overall than those who don’t. Basically, the survey reports that people who went to any sort of communal musical event said they were pretty satisfied with their lot, on a bigger scale than those who didn’t.

Officially, the study says that it “explores the connection between habitual music engagement and subjective wellbeing,” where ‘habitual music engagement’ might be anything from attending music festivals to just going to the club. The most important part of the experience, however, is supposedly the communal element, the part where you feel joy among others feeling joy, and essentially experience the best bit of being human.

https://noisey.vice.com/en_au/article/wjjywn/science-says-regularly-attending-concerts-makes-you-happier

Two simple mind-body practices improved cognition and helped reverse perceived memory loss in older adults with subjective cognitive decline, in a pilot study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Researchers randomly assigned 60 older adults with subjective cognitive decline—a strong predictor of Alzheimer’s disease—to a program of either beginner meditation (Kirtan Kriya) or music listening over 6 months. For the first 3 months, participants were directed to practice their intervention 12 minutes daily. For the remaining 3 months, participants were told to engage in their intervention at their discretion.

At 3 months, both the meditation and music listening groups showed marked and significant improvements in subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance, researchers found. What’s more, the substantial gains were maintained or improved at 6 months.

Brain Games Linked to Delayed Cognitive Decline in Elderly

“Findings of this preliminary randomized controlled trial suggest practice of meditation or music listening can significantly enhance both subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance in adults with subjective cognitive decline,” researchers concluded, “and may offer promise for improving outcomes in this population.”

Researchers had previously found that both interventions also improved sleep, mood, stress, well-being, and quality of life—with gains particularly pronounced in participants who practiced meditation. In that study, too, improvements were maintained or improved 3 months after baseline.

—Jolynn Tumolo

References

Innes KE, Selfe TK, Khalsa DS, Kandati S. Meditation and music improve memory and cognitive function in adults with subjective cognitive decline: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2017;56:899-916.

Meditation and music may help reverse early memory loss in adults at risk for Alzheimer’s disease [press release]. Lansdale, PA: IOS Press; January 23, 2017.