Musical Training Increases Blood Flow in the Brain

Researchers at the University of Liverpool found musical training can increase blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain, suggesting the area of the brain responsible for music and language share common pathways.

The team from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society carried out two studies looking at brain activity patterns in musicians and non-musicians.

Musicians and non-musicians

The first study looked at the patterns of brain activity in 14 musicians and nine non-musicians whilst they participated in music and word generation tasks. The results showed that patterns in the musician’s brains were similar in both tasks, but this was not the case for the non-musicians.

In the second study, brain activity patterns were measured in a different group of non-musical participants who took part in a word generation task and a music perception task.

The measurements were then taken again following 30 minutes of musical training.

Measurements taken before the training showed no significant pattern or correlation. Following the training, however, significant similarities were found.

This image shows a brain surrounded by music notes.
Just 30 minutes of simple musical training resulted in significant similarities in brain activity. The image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit

Amy Spray, who conducted the research as part of a School of Psychology Summer Internship Scheme, said: “The areas of our brain that process music and language are thought to be shared.

“Previous research has suggested that musical training can lead to the increased use of the left hemisphere of the brain.

“This study looked into the modulatory effects that musical training could have on the use of the different sides of the brain when performing music and language tasks.

“It was fascinating to see that the similarities in blood flow signatures could be brought about after just 30 minutes of simple musical training.”

Rapid change

Liverpool Psychologist, Dr Georg Mayer, who supervised Amy, explained: “This suggests that the correlated brain patterns were the result of using areas thought to be involved in language processing.

“We can therefore assume that musical training results in a rapid change in the cognitive mechanisms utilised for music perception, and these shared mechanisms are usually employed for language.”

Notes about this psychology and music research

The research was presented at the British Psychological Society Annual conference.

Contact: Sarah Stamper – University of Liverpool
Source: University of Liverpool press release
Image Source: The image is credited to and is in the public domain
Original Research: The research will be presented at the 2014 British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Brimingham, May 7-9.

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