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Posts Tagged ‘MRI’

I read an interesting article today about enhancing your well-being through purposeful mental training such as that done by Buddhist monks in Tibet.

Written by Brian Maffly of the Salt Lake Tribune, it is a fascinating look into current scientific research done by Communications Psychology professor Richard Davidson of Madison University, using the latest technology such as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to document the startling control the monks demonstrate over their emotional states.  His resulting ideas about “neuroplasticity” — the notion that we can enhance brain function through purposeful mental training — threaten to upend conventional psychoterapy, which has little scientific basis.

Davidson is quoted as saying:

“We were all taught that the brain is different from other organs in the way it changes over time.  We thought the process was one of irrevocable death,”  Davidson said.  “We now know that view is definitely wrong.  The brain is capable of generating 7,000 to 9,000 cells a day.”

Recruited by the Dalai Lama, monks who participated in this study had spent, on average, 34,000 hours in intense meditation and were considered masters of the faith.   By using scans that tracked brain function, Davidson was able to track high levels of activity in the areas of the brain associated with emotional well-being.   Further studies documented measurable changes in brain activity after two-week sessions of mental training.

The most interesting part of this article for me is directly related to music.  Davidson states,  The brain is the only organ designed to change in response to experience.   Musical training changes the structure of the brain and when it begins earlier in life the greater the influence. (emphasis mine)

Come join us in our Kindermusik classes and create some well-being of your own for you and your child.  We gladly offer pro-rated tuition when joining after the beginning of the new semester!

For our class schedule, please visit our website.


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Tonight I received an interesting article that I thought I’d share, entitled, ” ‘Mozart effect’ or not, music is beneficial” by Mike Saelee of the UCLA Daily Bruin. 

Saelee writes about research being done at  UCLA Semel Institute’s Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to study brain activity while people listen to or create music.  The hope is that by applying the use of fMRI and music to study emotion processing in the brains of children with autism, a developmental disorder of the brain, researchers may learn more about the possible use of music as a tool to help autistic children with social engagement and communication, noted key areas of the disorder. 

“The study will examine how the brain processes emotion in children with autism by measuring blood flow while listening to pleasant and unpleasant music,” said Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, a neuroscientist at the UCLA Semel Institute’s Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity. 

The positive therapeutic effects of music are also being harnessed and used in hospitals and other types of health institutions, such as rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes.   Vanya Green, a music therapist at UCLA, is quoted as saying, “Music enables an emotional level to be reached that may not be done in other modalities.”   The type of music therapy used depends upon the assessment of the client’s specific needs  derived by the music therapist. 

The simple process of remembering and producing a familiar tune such as “Here comes the Bride” occurs because the centers of the brain that process music and sound evolved from processing sounds of danger and/or threat to human life.  Due to the importance of understanding and comprehending sounds for survival, sounds have a direct route to the limbic system, which is a set of brain structures involved in emotion processing and to areas important for processing reward.  This also explains why so many of us actively turn to music we enjoy, that gives us pleasure. 

Molnar-Szakacs of UCLA is quoted as saying, “These pathways are now used for processing all sounds, from a lion’s roar to a Beethoven symphony, allowing us to listen to music and feel incredibly moved.  There is music at the mall, music at the gym, music in the car, and music on our phone. We pretty much live with a permanent soundtrack.”

I don’t know about you, but I think my “permanent soundtrack” sometimes needs a good “shuffle” in it!  🙂

 

To read this article in its entirety, please visit the UCLA Daily Bruin here.

Thanks goes to Remy Moore, Media Projects Assistant at Simply Music.com, for providing this article to us.  Thanks, Remy!

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Many times in our Village classes (for infants 0 – 18 months), during our exercise time, I will often tell the parents that by providing the cross-lateral movements between opposing hand and foot, they are stimulating the corpus callosum which contains the nerve pathways between the two hemispheres in the brain.  This area is also linked to future academic success, such as learning to read, being able to write, and eye-hand coordination.    Recently published findings now indicate that the consistent, faithful practice of a musical instrument also provides further lifelong benefits. 

boy playing piano

In ScienceNOW Daily News, an article entitled Music Builds Bridges in the Brain by Greg Miller was published this past Wednesday, and gives even more weight to those parental reminders “Have you practiced your music today?”  It documents the release of a study by neuroscientists at Harvard Medical College and Boston College who studied 31 children from the age of 6 to 9 who had all been involved in musical instruction at some time during the course of the study or were continuing in their ongoing musical studies. 

Detailed magnetic resonance images (MRI’s) were taken of the children at ages 6 and 9.  Of the original thirty-one, six children were faithful to practice each week, averaging at least 2.5 hours weekly in the time between scans.  (Side note here: this is the same amount of time I require of all of my beginners – one half hour for five days each week.) 

In these children, “a region of the corpus callosum that connects movement-planning regions on the two sides of the brain grew about 25% relative to the overall size of the brain.”  Those children who practiced less than this or dropped their instrument entirely showed no growth.  Consistent, faithful practice doesn’t just improve your playing; it also strengthens and builds your brain! 

All of these children involved in the study did study an instrument which involved the use of two hands, such as the piano or violin.  (Possibly even flute? 🙂 )  We will have exciting news about our piano studio up in the next few days, so stay tuned! 

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