New research from Finland has found that the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in creating long-term memory, is active when one listens to recurring musical phrases.
Led by academy professor Petri Toiviainen, Ph.D., of the Finnish Centre for Interdisciplinary Music Research (CIMR) at the University of Jyväskylä, and Elvira Brattico, Ph.D., of Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, the study involved participants attentively listening to an Argentinian tango from beginning to end. The team was able to identify the brain areas involved in repetition tracking.
“Our study basically shows an increase of activity in the medial temporal lobe areas—best known for being essential for long-term memory—when musical motifs in the piece were repeated,” said Iballa Burunat, MA, a leading author of the study. “This means that the lobe areas are engaged in the short-term recognition of musical phrases. Importantly, this hadn’t been observed before in music neuroscience.”
While further research is pending, a possible reason for the activity in the hippocampus could stem from the region’s role in the limbic system, which is involved in emotional behavior. As there is an emotional connection between music and memory, this study suggests that emotional events are more memorable than neutral ones.
This is the latest in several studies to analyze how listening to music, and playing it, can benefit one’s overall health.
Last Updated: August 19, 2014