Music in the brain: What our taste in melody reveals about our mind

(CNN) – Music is a powerful caller to memory.

Listening to a favorite, familiar, or “throwback” song can instantly take you to another moment in your life, bringing back the details of striking clarity. And it’s not just an imaginary feeling – there’s science behind how our minds connect music to memory.

There is a long-standing beneficial relationship between music and Alzheimer’s or dementia patients.

Repeatedly listening to meaningful music in person has been shown to improve the adaptive capacity of the brain in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.

According to Michael Thought, senior author of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, listening to music with a special meaning stimulates the nerves of the brain which helps them maintain a high level of function. It was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in November.

These songs carry unique meanings, such as people dancing to music at their weddings and experiments leading to increased memory. The results may support the inclusion of music-based therapy for the treatment of patients with cognitive disabilities in the future.

The most significant changes were in the prefrontal cortex, known as the brain’s control center, where decision-making, social behavior moderation, personality expression, and complex emotional behavior planning took place.

When patients listen to their personal music, it creates a musical neural network that connects different areas of the brain based on MRIs taken by patients before and after listening to music. This was different from when they heard new, unfamiliar music, which only protected a certain part of the brain from being heard.

The study had only 14 participants, including six musicians, and they listened to specially curated playlists for one hour a day for three weeks. But these participants are similar to previous studies that have identified neural mechanisms for preserving music-related memories in individuals experiencing early cognitive decline.

“Whether you are a lifelong musician or even play an instrument, music is your memory, the key to accessing your pre-frontal cortex,” said Thaut, director of the University of Toronto’s Music and Health Sciences Research Collaborative and a statement from Medic and Music. A professor in the faculty. She also holds the Tier One Canada Research Chair in Music, Neuroscience and Health. “It’s easy – keep listening to the music you’ve loved all your life. Your favorite songs of all time, the pieces that mean something special to you – make it a gym in your brain.”

The research is a promising start that could lead to music therapy applications with a larger purpose.

It also highlights another connection: music and our personality.

Like-minded music fans

Music is related to our desire to communicate, to tell stories, and to share values ​​with one another, and it has deep roots in early human culture.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that as humans, we have made connections and bonds with certain genres or musical styles as a way to express ourselves and transmit our personality.

A recent study of more than 350,000 participants spread across six continents found that personality types are associated with specific music preferences.

During the study, people from more than 50 countries self-reported their enjoyment of 23 different music genres and also filled out a personality questionnaire. A second assessment involved participants listening to and ranking short clips of music from 16 different genres and sub-genres of Western music. The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in February.

Music falls under five major genres. “Mallow” is associated with soft rock, R&B and adult contemporary music, including romantic lyrics and slow beats, while “Intense” is more aggressive music such as higher, punk, classic rock, heavy metal and power pop. Other categories include “contemporary” (bright electronica, rap, Latin and Euro-pop), “sophisticated” (classical, opera, jazz) and “unprecedented” (relaxed or country music genres).

The findings revealed a direct link between extroverted and contemporary music, conscience and unprecedented music, consent and soft or unprecedented music. Openness was associated with melodious, intense, sophisticated and contemporary music.

This means that Ed Sheeran’s “vibrating” songs appeal to outsiders, while agreeable people will be happy to hear Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. Meanwhile, open-minded people enjoy Nina Simon or David Bowie’s classic “Space Audit”. And there are applications of all these types of songs that cross national boundaries, according to research.

“We are amazed at how much these patterns in music and personality are replicated around the world,” said study author David Greenberg, a respected research associate at Cambridge University and a postdoctoral scholar at Bar-Ilan University, in a statement.

“People may be divided by geography, language and culture, but if an introvert in one part of the world likes the same music as introverts elsewhere, it suggests that music can be a very strong bridge. Music helps people understand each other and find common ground. Helps to get. “

These were all positive associations, but they also found a negative connection between conscience and intense music.

“We thought that nervousness could go a long way, either to choose sad music to express their loneliness or to choose passionate music to change their mood. In fact, on average, they seem to prefer a more intense style of music, which probably reflects inner frustration and frustration, “Greenberg said.

“It was amazing but people use music in different ways – some may use it for catharsis, others to change their mood. We will look at this in more detail.”

Researchers have acknowledged that the taste of musical instruments is not set in stone and may change. But the study provides a basis for understanding how music can transcend other social categories and bring people together, Greenberg said.

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