Category : Editorial

Melodies come straight from heart but some researchers are on the way to prove that melodies are more closer to mind than heart. Researchers at Dartmouth ore getting closer to understanding how some melodies hove a tendency to stick in your head or why hearing a particular song can bring back a high school dance. They have found and mapped the area in your brain that processes and tracks music. It's a place that's also active during reasoning and memory retrieval.

The study indicates that knowledge about the harmonic relationships of music is maintained in the rostromedial prefrontal cortex, which is centrally located, right behind the forehead. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments, the researchers asked their eight subjects, who all had some degree of musical experience to listen to a piece of original music. The music was specifically crafted to shift in particular ways between and around the different keys. These relationships between the keys create o geometric pattern that is donut shaped, which is coiled a 'torus.

The piece of music moves around on the surface of the torus, so that they figure out a way to pick out brain areas that were sensitive to the harmonic motion of the melody. They developed two different tasks for their subjects to perform, then constructed a statistical model that separated brain activation due to performing the tasks from the activation that arose from the melody moving around on the torus, independent of the tasks. It was a way to find the pure representation of the underlying musical structure in the brain.

The Iwo tasks involved first, asking subjects to identify on embedded lest tone that would pop out in some keys but blend into other keys, and second, asking subjects to detect sounds that were played by a flute-like instrument rather than the clarinet-like instrument that prevailed in the music. As the subjects performed the tasks, the fMRI scanner provided detailed pictures of brain activity. The researchers compared where the activation was on the donut from moment to moment with the fluctuations they recorded in all regions of the brain. Only the rostromediol prefrontal area reliably tracked the fluctuations on the donut in all the subjects, therefore, the researchers concluded, this area maintains a mop of the music.

Music is a sought-after stimulus. It's not necessary for human survival, yet something inside us craves for it. This research helps us understand that craving a little bit more.


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