Study Identifies Specific Neurons in Our Brain Light Up When We Hear Singing

By: | March 1st, 2022

Image by Pixabay

Music has many promising neurological and physiological effects. It is also known that music helps in reducing anxiety and stress.

But did you know that our brain reacts differently to different types of songs?

Researchers from MIT have identified particular groups of neurons that appear to respond selectively to the sound of singing.

Scientists discovered that these neurons respond to singing but not to regular speech or instrumental music. This indicates that singing has a distinct neural signature in comparison to speech or instrumental music.

For this study, researchers recorded the electrical activity in the brains of 15 participants

They used a technique called electrocorticography (ECoG). Researchers inserted electrodes inside their skulls to record electrical activity from the brain.

They recorded electrical activity in response to 165 different sounds, and then processed them using an algorithm. They combined the results with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans. As the result, researchers were able to precisely identify the locations of these neurons that respond to singing.

“To be able to distinguish the musical properties of sounds is fundamental for survival,” says Jörg Fachner at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK. “It makes sense that this dispositional ability is wired into our auditory cortex.”

“It may also explain why singing a beloved song to a person with dementia may allow responses [even though] the neurodegenerative process has limited the functionality of brain areas,” he says. “This result, along with other neuroimaging-related results of musical memory, may help to explain why songs may help dementia patients.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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