Dec 292016
 

Your Baby’s Brain on Music… It’s not Sci-Fi

Music is sound. Sound is heard. But music is so much more.

Music ignites the brain, orchestrating a neural symphony between the ears. A melody drifts into the ear, spirals down the cochlea, drops individual tones onto waiting receptors. Tones are deconstructed and launched out on a variety of trajectories, simultaneously activating multiple regions of the brain to process the wealth of information embedded in the music. Consider listening to your favorite song; memories and emotions are triggered, the beat plays out in your head, you smile or cry, your body dances in time. Surely experience shapes these perceptions, assigning meaning and emotion to songs. But is the neuronal encoding for musical information actually formed by these experiences or is it an intrinsic property of merely being human?
The adult auditory system is asymmetrical, the right side associated with music and the left with speech. In 2010 researchers in the field of cognition asked if the neural correlates for asymmetrical sound processing were already in place at birth (Perani et al., 2010). To answer this question, they imaged the brains of peacefully sleeping swaddled newborns, only 1 to 3 days from the womb, while playing piano excerpts from top composers of the Baroque and Classical eras. Next, they challenged the babies’ brains by shifting the key of the music, effectively altering the music’s tonal context while maintaining its musical integrity. This allowed the researchers to not only ask how music is perceived outside of rich contextual landscape of experience but also how this perception could be altered by structural changes to the melody.

Surveying Sound: Your Baby’s First Critical Window
Music entered the babies’ brains and traveled to the most likely of places, the right (musical) auditory cortex. The auditory cortex is subdivided into hierarchal layers – the primary, secondary, and tertiary cortices. After the initial receipt of musical tones in the primary cortex the other two regions are typically recruited for decoding of complex melodic structures and to initiate motor responses (i.e. tapping and dancing to the beat). At only three days of age the babies’ brains were already engaging all three auditory cortices in an asymmetrical manner. But the music did not stop there; it traveled into the emotional processing centers of the right brain as well. This suggests that the babies were not only perceiving and processing the music but they were also ‘feeling it’.
So what happened when the music tones were altered? When the researchers played the same music but with shifted tonal structure the babies’ brains lit up in both the right and left auditory cortices and emotional processing centers. Why, if the altered music maintained a musical quality, did the left (speech) auditory cortex get involved? In adults we see this left-sided pattern of brain activation when trying to discern irregularities in sound patterns. Perhaps, then, the unexpected nature of the altered tones spiked the little ones’ curiosity, causing them to send the music to the left side of their brains to figure it out. Given that the altered music was still musical in nature this left-side switch likely was the result of surprise associated with the tonal shift instead of failure to recognize the music as, well, music.
Instinctively we know that music can soothe and engage our babies but the degree and effect of this engagement has remained elusive. Overall, this study showed that babies are born into this world with a neural asymmetry for sound processing and a neural-based sensitivity to the structure of sound. Likely this framework was established before birth, even as early as the onset of hearing at only 16 weeks’ gestation. These results are particularly intriguing in the context of the prevailing “use it or lose it” hypothesis in the field of cognitive neuroscience. This hypothesis states that the more a neural circuit is engaged early in life the stronger it becomes, forming a neural scaffold on which learning is built. Conversely, circuits that are not engaged lose strength and disappear from the neural framework. Use it or lose it. This research suggests that music can be used in a new and unexpected way to differentially induce and reinforce neural pathways that may not be activated by traditional music in a newborn baby’s brain.

Perani, D., Saccuman, M. C., Scifo, P., Spada, D., Andreolli, G., Rovelli, R., . . . Koelsch, S. (2010). Functional specializations for music processing in the human newborn brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(10), 4758-4763.

Social Interaction: The Missing Link in Your Baby’s Learning

The power of song to both soothe and stimulate babies is a universally known truth. Mothers instinctively respond to their baby’s cries by rocking them gently while singing sweet melodic songs, inducing a sense of calm and peace. As babies grow and begin to explore their world song is used to stimulate learning. Consider the classic learning song “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”, this is a fun, engaging way to learn the parts of our bodies which, otherwise, might be all together uninteresting.
Using music to promote emotional calm and enhance learning is far from novel, but how and why does it work? Over the past two decades neuroscientists have sought to understand underlying mechanisms and outcomes of music engagement in promoting infant cognitive, emotional, and social development.
In 2012, researchers from McMaster University asked if music exposure could positively impact brain cognition and development in babies during brief but critical window of time, from 6 – 12 months of age. During this time babies transition from being able to recognize all possible sounds to only focusing on the sounds they actively hear, i.e they become culture-bound listeners. Scientists have dubbed this the “use it or lose it” hypothesis; if babies do not hear specific sounds during this time then they lose their ability to accurately perceive them by one year of age [see Surveying Sound: Your Baby’s First Critical Window].
This study compared the effects of two different types of music exposure – Active and Passive – with no musical interventions in babies starting at 6 months of age, at the opening of this critical window. In the Active group, babies actively engaged in music playing and listening with their parent. In the Passive group, babies engaged in normal everyday play while Baby Einstein™ CD’s played in the background. The main differences between these groups was that the Active group reinforced learning through repetition, used positive social interaction to enhance learning, and emphasized music quality.
After six months the researchers tested their little subjects on their preference for Western tones, their ability to discriminate novel sounds, their emotional response to novel sounds, and their overall ability to communicate. In each parameter tested, the babies who had Active music exposure scored significantly higher than the other two groups. There was little difference between the Passive group and babies receiving no music interventions. Thus, this study concluded music enhances cognitive, emotional, and social development only when exposure is in the context of active learning and social interaction (Gerry, Unrau, & Trainor, 2012).
This need for social interaction in infant learning is echoed in research on language acquisition. Researchers have found that babies are only perceptive to foreign language sounds when they directly interact with another human ; babies exposed to foreign language through passive exposure such as watching a foreign speaker on tv (Kuhl, Tsao, & Liu, 2003) or watching Baby Einstein™ CD’s (DeLoache et al., 2010) do not learn the foreign language sounds.
All caretakers can likely attest that infants are social learners; If imitation is truly the highest form of flattery, then infants surely are the greatest charmers. However, the absolute need for this interaction to improve cognitive outcomes from learning experiences was unknown. These studies highlight a currently overlooked yet critical component of learning that is absent from most educational baby products on the market – the need for human interaction during the process of learning.

DeLoache, J. S., Chiong, C., Sherman, K., Islam, N., Vanderborght, M., Troseth, G. L., . . . O’Doherty, K. (2010). Do babies learn from baby media? Psychological Science.
Gerry, D., Unrau, A., & Trainor, L. J. (2012). Active music classes in infancy enhance musical, communicative and social development. Developmental science, 15(3), 398-407.
Kuhl, P. K., Tsao, F.-M., & Liu, H.-M. (2003). Foreign-language experience in infancy: Effects of short-term exposure and social interaction on phonetic learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(15), 9096-9101.

By |January 19th, 2016|Resources|Comments Off on Social Interaction: The Missing Link in Your Baby’s Learning

 

 

By |January 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Your Baby’s Brain on Music
Sep 112015
 

Drumming is as fundamental a form of human expression as speaking, and likely emerged long before humans even developed the capability of using the lips, tongue and vocal organs as instruments of communication.

The first sound we ever heard while still in our mother’s womb, was the beating of her heart, and the rhythm of her breath. No matter our race, gender, age, religion or belief system, this common experience exists for all human beings.

When newcomers are first introduced to drumming, they often say “oh, I don’t have any rhythm,” in an attempt to excuse themselves for their imagined inadequacy.

The truth is: We All have Rhythm!

Rhythm is our natural inheritance. It exists in our bodies, our hearts, our breath. It exists in the vibration of atoms, the cycles of the seasons, the ticking of clocks, the orbit of the earth. There is no part of creation that is without rhythm!

Fat Congas

Fat Congas

 

Lalo Gatos

Lalo Gatos

Drumming is a practice that spans the globe and has a presence in every culture. It has been used for centuries in rituals, ceremonies, communication, rites of passage, music and dance, celebration, healing, community building, and cultural events.

Drum therapy is an ancient approach that uses rhythm to promote healing and self-expression. From the shamans of Mongolia to the Minianka healers of West Africa, therapeutic rhythm techniques have been used for thousands of years to create and maintain physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Current research is now verifying the therapeutic effects of ancient rhythm techniques. Recent research reviews indicate that drumming accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, a release of emotional trauma, and reintegration of self.

Other studies have demonstrated the calming, focusing, and healing effects of drumming on Alzheimer’s patients, autistic children, emotionally disturbed teens, recovering addicts, trauma patients, and prison and homeless populations. Study results demonstrate that drumming is a valuable treatment for stress, fatigue, anxiety, hypertension, asthma, chronic pain, arthritis, mental illness, migraines, cancer,multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, paralysis, emotional disorders, and a wide range of physical disabilities.    Eddie D Katz

djembe-drumming

Reduces Tension, Anxiety, and Stress

Drumming induces deep relaxation, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress. Stress, according to current medical research, contributes to nearly all disease and is a primary cause of such life-threatening illnesses as heart attacks, strokes, and immune system breakdowns. A recent study found that a program of group drumming helped reduce stress and employee turnover in the long-term care industry and might help other high-stress occupations as well.1

Increases Brain White Matter & Executive Cognitive Function

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Huntington’s Disease found that two months of drumming intervention in Huntington’s patients (considered an irreversible, lethal neurodegenerative disease) resulted in “improvements in executive function and changes in white matter microstructure, notably in the genu of the corpus callosum that connects prefrontal cortices of both hemispheres.”[ix]The study authors concluded that the pilot study provided novel preliminary evidence that drumming (or related targeted behavioral stimulation) may result in “cognitive enhancement and improvements in callosal white matter microstructure.”

Control Chronic Pain

Chronic pain has a progressively draining effect on the quality of life. Researchers suggest that drumming serves as a distraction from pain and grief. Moreover, drumming promotes the production of endorphins and endogenous opiates, the bodies own morphine-like painkillers, and can thereby help in the control of pain.2

Socio-Emotional Disorders

A powerful 2001 study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that low-income children who enrolled in a 12-week group drumming intervention saw multiple domains of social-emotional behavior improve significantly, from anxiety to attention, from oppositional to post-traumatic disorders.

Boosts the Immune System

A recent medical research study indicates that drumming circles boost the immune system. Led by renowned cancer expert Barry Bittman, MD, the study demonstrates that group drumming actually increases cancer-killing cells, which help the body combat cancer as well as other viruses, including AIDS. According to Dr. Bittman, “Group drumming tunes our biology, orchestrates our immunity, and enables healing to begin.”3

Accesses the Entire Brain

The reason rhythm is such a powerful tool is that it permeates the entire brain. Vision for example is in one part of the brain, speech another, but drumming accesses the whole brain. The sound of drumming generates dynamic neuronal connections in all parts of the brain even where there is significant damage or impairment such as in Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). According to Michael Thaut, director of Colorado State University’s Center for Biomedical Research in Music, “Rhythmic cues can help retrain the brain after a stroke or other neurological impairment, as with Parkinson’s patients…” The more connections that can be made within the brain, the more integrated our experiences become.

Releasing Emotions

Drumming can be used to express emotions whether you want to release alone or in psychotherapy. We can drum a multitude of emotions such as happiness, fear, sadness and anger. Friedman states “happiness is usually played as a series of rapid, syncopated beats. Fear might be expressed as staccato tappings. Sadness usually evokes slow, ponderous beats while anger becomes hard, loud and energetic.”

Friedman discusses the concept of “Alchemical Drumming” to release unhealthy emotions whether it is anger, frustration or guilt into the drum. Through simply tapping a drum, negative emotions can be transformed into healthy ones.

There is nothing like drumming to bring one into a sense of personal power. It builds self-confidence and esteem. In one exercise we did, we drummed a repetitious beat for over a half an hour to put us in touch with the warrior archetype. This beat conjured up a sense of determination, power and perseverance helping to push through “whiny” thoughts like my hands are sore, my back aches or this is taking too long.

Clave Stick Patterns

Self-confidence will build when you start discipline playing rhythms to a steady beat. Learn the Clave(stick) patterns for they are the skeleton rhythm pattern ( 3-2 and 2-3) for most Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Clave comes from a blend of cultures, African and Spanish originating in Cuba. This will give you confidence to musically  communicate with other musicians. Rock and Roll have elements of 3-2 Clave introduced by Bo Diddly, The Dixie Cups and Buddy Holly and continues into modern music.

Sources:

lalogatos@msn.com/get to know clave/lessons

http://www.alternativedepressiontherapy.com/drumming-therapy.html

http://healing.about.com/od/drums/a/drumtherapy.htm

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/6-ways-drumming-heals-body-mind-and-soul

http://www.transformationalarts.com/inspirational-articles/co-founder-vitality-articles/healing-rhythms-of-the-drum

– See more at: http://www.the-open-mind.com/how-drumming-heals-the-body-mind-and-soul/#sthash.zE4Vh49P.dpuf

Mar 272012
 

Playing an instrument helps tune the brain

Study shows positive effects from a lifetime of music

How playing an instrument benefits your brain – Anita Collins

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=R0JKCYZ8hng     Click to watch

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But what happens when you are part of making the music? The activity of playing an instrument becomes more like a full-body brain workout! What’s going on? Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians’ brains when they play and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout. As a musician myself, I like it!

 Rick Wunder plays his trombone near the Lake Michigan shoreline in Evanston. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune / March 26, 2012)

By Leslie Mann, Special to the Tribune

March 28, 2012

Note to husbands who need excuses to play the guitar with their buddies and to parents justifying the cost of their children’s piano lessons: A new study from Northwestern University in Evanston says lifelong playing of musical instruments has a positive impact on the brain.

“Our neural timing slows as we age; we knew that,” said Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern and principal investigator of its Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory. “Hearing what your spouse says when you’re in a noisy restaurant, for example, is harder when you’re older. But this study shows that musicians are faster at processing noise than non-musicians are. This shows us there is a biological impact of musical training.”

It makes sense, said Kraus.

“A musician has to be constantly picking out sounds from others,” she said. “Just as we lift weights to build our biceps, playing music makes our nervous systems more efficient.”

The study included 87 participants — younger (18 to 32) and older (45 to 65), musicians and non musicians. The musicians were not all professional, but they played their instruments at least three times a week into adulthood.

“I watched a movie with captions to keep me awake while electrodes on my head measured my reaction to sounds I heard through headphones,” said study participant Rick Wunder, 60, from Evanston.

Wunder is a retired systems analyst who has played the trombone since he was a child and now plays in a community symphony and in several brass quartets.

The electrodes measured how Wunder’s nervous system responded to the sounds he heard.

“We’re talking milliseconds of time,” said Kraus. “It’s very objective; the mood of the participant didn’t matter.”

“The results are very interesting, I think,” said Wunder. “When I’m with other people my age in a loud place like a sports bar, I can tell they don’t necessarily hear what I say, while I still can.”

In the study’s chart that compares sound to neural responses among musicians, the two wavy lines are in sync. But the non musicians’ chart looks like confetti (the neural responses) thrown at a wavy line (the sounds the participants heard).

The study is affecting education policymaking, said Kraus.

“We’ve been pleased to hear from educators who have used our website (soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/slide shows/music) to argue for funding for continuation of musical education,” she said. “We’re giving them biological evidence that, yes, continued musical education matters.”

In addition to the affects of aging, musical training affects daily activities of young people such as hearing a teacher in a noisy classroom or even simple conversation, explained Kraus.

“As we’re talking, your brain has to remember what you just said,” she said.

The study will be published in a 2012 edition of the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

Copyright © 2012, Chicago Tribune

 

Early Music Lessons Have Longtime Benefits

By PERRI KLASS, M.D.
Joyce Hesselberth
  • When children learn to play a musical instrument, they strengthen a range of auditory skills. Recent studies suggest that these benefits extend all through life, at least for those who continue to be engaged with music.

But a study published last month is the first to show that music lessons in childhood may lead to changes in the brain that persist years after the lessons stop.

Researchers at Northwestern University recorded the auditory brainstem responses of college students — that is to say, their electrical brain waves — in response to complex sounds. The group of students who reported musical training in childhood had more robust responses — their brains were better able to pick out essential elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds when they were tested. And this was true even if the lessons had ended years ago.

Indeed, scientists are puzzling out the connections between musical training in childhood and language-based learning — for instance, reading. Learning to play an instrument may confer some unexpected benefits, recent studies suggest.

We aren’t talking here about the “Mozart effect,” the claim that listening to classical music can improve people’s performance on tests. Instead, these are studies of the effects of active engagement and discipline. This kind of musical training improves the brain’s ability to discern the components of sound — the pitch, the timing and the timbre.

“To learn to read, you need to have good working memory, the ability to disambiguate speech sounds, make sound-to-meaning connections,” said Professor Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. “Each one of these things really seems to be strengthened with active engagement in playing a musical instrument.”

Skill in appreciating the subtle qualities of sound, even against a complicated and noisy background, turns out to be important not just for a child learning to understand speech and written language, but also for an elderly person struggling with hearing loss.

In a study of those who do keep playing, published this summer, researchers found that as musicians age, they experience the same decline in peripheral hearing, the functioning of the nerves in their ears, as non musicians. But older musicians preserve the brain functions, the central auditory processing skills that can help you understand speech against the background of a noisy environment.

“We often refer to the ‘cocktail party’ problem — or imagine going to a restaurant where a lot of people are talking,” said Dr. Claude Alain, assistant director of the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto and one of the authors of the study. “The older adults who are musically trained perform better on speech in noise tests — it involves the brain rather than the peripheral hearing system.”

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are approaching the sound-scape from a different point of view, studying the genetics of absolute, or perfect, pitch, that ability to identify any tone. Dr. Jane Gitschier, a professor of medicine and pediatrics who directs the study there, and her colleagues are trying to tease out both the genetics and the effects of early training.

“The immediate question we’ve been trying to get to is what are the variants in people’s genomes that could predispose an individual to have absolute pitch,” she said. “The hypothesis, further, is that those variants will then manifest as absolute pitch with the input of early musical training.”

Indeed, almost everyone who qualifies as having truly absolute pitch turns out to have had musical training in childhood (you can take the test and volunteer for the study at http://perfectpitch.ucsf.edu/study/).

Alexandra Parbery-Clark, a doctoral candidate in Dr. Kraus’s lab and one of the authors of a paper published this year on auditory working memory and music, was originally trained as a concert pianist. Her desire to go back to graduate school and study the brain, she told me, grew out of teaching at a French school for musically talented children, and observing the ways that musical training affected other kinds of learning.

“If you get a kid who is maybe 3 or 4 years old and you’re teaching them to attend, they’re not only working on their auditory skills but also working on their attention skills and their memory skills — which can translate into scholastic learning,” she said.

Now Ms. Parbery-Clark and her colleagues can look at recordings of the brain’s electrical detection of sounds, and they can see the musically trained brains producing different — and stronger — responses. “Now I have more proof, tangible proof, music is really doing something,” she told me. “One of my lab mates can look at the computer and say, ‘Oh, you’re recording from a musician!’ ”

Many of the researchers in this area are themselves musicians interested in the plasticity of the brain and the effects of musical education on brain waves, which mirror the stimulus sounds. “This is a response that actually reflects the acoustic elements of sound that we know carry meaning,” Professor Kraus said.

There’s a fascination — and even a certain heady delight — in learning what the brain can do, and in drawing out the many effects of the combination of stimulation, application, practice and auditory exercise that musical education provides. But the researchers all caution that there is no one best way to apply these findings.

Different instruments, different teaching methods, different regimens — families need to find what appeals to the individual child and what works for the family, since a big piece of this should be about pleasure and mastery. Children should enjoy themselves, and their lessons. Parents need to care about music, not slot it in as a therapeutic tool.

“We want music to be recognized for what it can be in a person’s life, not necessarily, ‘Oh, we want you to have better cognitive skills, so we’re going to put you in music,’ ” Ms. Parbery-Clark said. “Music is great, music is fantastic, music is social — let them enjoy it for what it really is.” TOP OF PAGE

May 252010
 

  

  

 

 The universe is vibration

 

 The world of music is wide and vast

Music to soothe, relax, move, inspire, learn, invigorate…

Here is a hand-picked selection of great music available for purchase as a digital download or CD:   

 

Yoga Music  Produced by Wayne Jones

             Believed to be excellent music for classes and music to go to sleep by. “I use this music every night to go to sleep by and it never fails me!”

 

 Videos to enjoy:

Music of many flavors

 Relax

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDH3jv-Q76k&feature=related

World Music

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrgGp2jaafs&feature=related

Tibetan bowls and gongs

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hncJzoAiAw&feature=related

Percussion joy

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Eplmop9NHE&feature=related

Ecstatic piano from one of the greatest living musicians – Keith Jarrett

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPqK1JJOFxw&feature=related

A Beatles classic on steel drum

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXtY0Cdax6c&feature=channel