by Melissa Tan
While many people appreciate music for its emotional depth, few pause to question what exactly goes into the innate human attraction to music. Advancements in an emerging field, called music cognition, have shown that the brain is biologically wired to connect with rhythm and harmony, correlating with the natural rhythms of the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
In the advancing technology produced by the music cognition field, musicians and scientists are finding many practical applications for the research findings in the field. Rhythm therapy, which is basic keyboard and percussion playing and listening, has been shown to help individuals with autism and attention-deficit disorder, giving them a means to express themselves clearly and ground their minds, sometimes to the point of being able to communicate verbally with fluency!
Above is a set of images showing brain activity scans of the brain at two different states, at rest, and while listening to music. The highlighted areas in red (showing increased neuron activity) include the frontal lobes, responsible for higher function; the central part of the brain, which conducts motor and sensory control, and the anterior central section, the audiovisual cortex.
So, from the founding fathers of classical music, to modern-day contemporary artists, a common thread prevails: music provides a means for people to connect to the world around them, socially, emotionally, and neurologically.