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Neurological link and Music

Discussion in 'Alternative Therapies' started by Sue C, Jan 24, 2010.

  1. Mark

    Mark Acting CEO

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    There's an excellent book called "This is your brain on music" by Daniel Levitin which I can recommend strongly to anyone interested in this subject, with a broad overview of all the latest scientific knowledge (well, as of 2006, anyway). There's plenty in there that chimes with the ideas in this thread. I learned so much about how music works emotionally, and now when I listen to music I find myself realising things like: "the reason that last chord sequence felt so unexpectedly satisfying was the novel way it resolved back to the tonic". Surprisingly, all this knowledge has only enhanced my enjoyment of music, rather than detracting from the mystique.

    One snippet that springs to mind is that some of the most basic capabilities of the brain - such as the ability to isolate an individual human voice from a mass of background noise and locate the source spatially - are way beyond the capabilities of the most powerful modern computers. The book explains what mathematical problems the brain must solve in order to do such tasks, and the difficulty of these things is mind-boggling. General auditory processing - inseparable from music processing - is one of the most sophisticated capabilities of the brain, if not the most sophisticated of all, and seems likely to be one of the hardest artificial intelligence problems to solve. Processing vision is a trivial problem by comparison. As such, it makes total sense to me that music can stimulate the neurological pathways in a huge variety of ways, and can produce profound effects on the body.

    Music is fundamental to who what we are. We were making music before the dawn of civilisation: the fairly recent discovery of 50,000-year-old flutes carved from animal bones confirms that. Yes, 50,000 years ago they were playing musical instruments - so how long before that were we singing to each other? Music may even have preceded language - I can't remember exactly what the book said about that but considering the behaviour of other animals my own view is that it's pretty much a certainty that music came first.

    There seem to be quite a lot of us world music fans on here! To them, and indeed to everyone else, I recommend songlines.co.uk.
  2. dancer

    dancer Senior Member

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    On another thread, someone was asking for ideas of hobbies that are possible for PWC.
    I suggested learning an instrument...and speculated that classical guitar might be a good one to try.

    I've played guitar for years (just strumming chords) but always had a secret longing to study classical guitar. So I took my own advice, got some lesson books and CDs, and have begun practicing simple drills and scales. My cognitive and creative loss have been the most frustrating and disabling parts of my ME/CFS, and I'm excited to see if this helps. I do find it very soothing. As with anything since getting this illness, I have to be very patient with myself (my ability to focus and concentrate is limited, which means shorter practice sessions than I'd like. But maybe that will improve, too).

    One thing I particularly find comforting about classical guitar, is that in holding the guitar, you almost "hug" the music.
  3. Lynn

    Lynn Senior Member

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    One of things that I have noticed is that my brain responds well to music that I know. It can be loud and rocking music but if I know it from my younger days I am okay. But if I am around some loud or intricate music that I am not familiar with I get tired very quickly.

    Lynn
  4. Mark

    Mark Acting CEO

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    Yes tloyd that is quite right, all in the book, music is all about the soothing pleasure of neural activation of familiar learned pathways, and the suprising, often jarring sensations induced by new combinations of sounds. When the balance is right, the effect of the unexpected twists is analagous to that of a good joke. Most satisfying music takes interesting journeys into the unknown to suit your sense of adventure, and can be trusted to ultimately resolve back to the comfortable, expected sounds (typically the tonic). My own approach is principled open-mindedness and constant exposure to new and unfamiliar sounds, in order to enrich my neurological resources and enhance what I am able to experience. Hence the interesting in yodelling, as prescribed by Dr Yes (trying Paging him some time on the subject).

    Dancer, what a co-incidence, I picked up my friend's guitar and played out my favourite classical piece from memory (incompletely, I was disappointed to find) - the first time I had done so since abandoning the instrument 20 years ago! I hope you find it as rewarding as it can be: unlike many other instruments one can play extremely satisfying and expressive music even at a fairly low grade of ability. One also feels very intimately involved with the music, as you rightly say, and it is very much an instrument one plays primarily to oneself, feeling the reverberations directly - the audience can never get as complete a picture as the musician. Personally I found that many of the pieces I had to learn were not exactly to my taste, although all were beautiful, and I found the greatest satisfaction in perhaps 3 pieces that I really felt empathy for and could add my own expression to naturally. These pieces never grew tired, I played them daily for years and loved them even after I had moved on to higher grades: they were then very easy to play but the nice thing was, as I improved I was able to add more technique to my playing of those pieces and my enjoyment of them therefore continued to grow. All the technical work is necessary to build up strength in the fingers, which is why it's important to do finger-strengthening exercises and of course, as with any instrument, to practice every day, even if only for a short time. It becomes, of course, a meditation, and I can't think of a single reason why it would be physically demanding for PWC. So I agree: it is an excellent choice! Thank you for inspiring this post which has reminded me just how rewarding it actually was, I am now thinking more seriously about picking it up again!
  5. Lynn

    Lynn Senior Member

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    Hi Mark,

    Your reply is interesting because I have been wondering if I could expand my ability to listen to music by doing a Graded Musical Challenge. Maybe just a bit of complex jazz every day for longer periods of time each day. Perhaps I will develop some new neural pathways.

    I wonder if that would work for smells as well? We stopped using dryer sheets in our house a year ago. Now I wonder if that was a mistake? Maybe dealing with the scent regularly helped me to deal with other scents that I now cannot bear.

    Lynn
  6. gracenote

    gracenote All shall be well . . .

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    Unfortunately, Mark, there are several reasons that I am kept away from playing my guitar.

    I have pain in my right arm and shoulder that gets worse with playing. I even ended up with a frozen right shoulder when I attempted to take a few guitar lessons to add to my skills (and I was very careful with the amount of practicing I did). For a year and a half I was unable to even hold the guitar in the proper position.

    I have trouble focusing on the task of learning anything new.

    I now have challenges with rhythm that I never had pre-illness.

    I tire very quickly so am not able to gain a "meditative" effect.

    I have a hard time doing anything daily that is not directly related to self-care.

    All of the above are a huge grief to me. Some days, the best I can do is look at my beautiful guitar and be grateful that the possibility of playing it skillfully once again remains.
  7. dancer

    dancer Senior Member

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    Gracenote, {HUGS!} I'm so sorry that right now you can't play your guitar. I also had a frozen shoulder last year... it was miserable. And I've had stretches of time as well where it was all I could do to drag myself to the bathroom and back to bed. In recent weeks, I'm able to sit up for small windows of time, and playing guitar feels good. But I didn't mean to flaunt that ability. I know how much it can hurt when people are talking about comforting activities they've found to do, when I can't do it.

    Mark, your description was great. I have indeed been finding the arpeggios to be like meditation. I can no longer do the soothing patterns of plies, tendus, and other ballet barre work...but music training has those same patterns, rythms, and opportunities for expression. I've played piano all my life, but that has felt more physically taxing and less appealing for me somehow. Now I'm off to listen to my Christopher Parkening CDs for inspiration.
  8. awdbawl

    awdbawl

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    Medical Mozart Effect?:Retro smile:

    Oh, ainit the pits! Especially humiliating for a professional linguist! :ashamed:
  9. muffin

    muffin Senior Member

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    Very interesting. Thanks for posting this. I am a big "pusher" of the Moody Blues and it is because of the super calming affect on my brain that really does make me forget being angry, sad, aggitated, etc. The MBs are better than any drug for my brain. Will have to see the link you posted. This is interesting. I think music hits our brainwaves somehow and then the lyrics (if they are good) hit our hearts and heads.
    Oddly, after my father dies I could not stop listening to Cat Steven's. Somehow it helped with the grieving process. Now, ten years after his death I don't really listen to that one particular song of Cat Steven's that I played over and over for about two years. Thanks again!
  10. cgstar4

    cgstar4

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  11. doug

    doug

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    Mark,
    You said "music is all about the soothing pleasure of neural activation of familiar learned pathways". I had very moving and emotional experiences when converting a stack of old vinyl into MP3's. Mostly 60-70's music from my youth that activated a flood of memories and feelings, but 'Yes' seemed the strongest. It was like this music was part of my brain formation, and I was repairing and reforging those old connections. I'm so glad my brain is wired to The Beatles,Yes, The Who, etc. and not the Bee Gees!

    I was looking into Binaural sound therapy, and thinking of trying a CD. The binaural theory is that a controlled beat with 10-40 Mzh different stereo sound waves into each ear stimulate the brain and reconnect left and right hemispheres. The key is to use headphones or earbuds while listening to binaural beats, and some music probably provides a similar effect.
  12. Enid

    Enid Senior Member

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    Music is enormously helpful - the Bachs and Mozarts. Tunes in with one,s deepest being through the worst.
  13. muffin

    muffin Senior Member

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    DOUG: Did you try the CD's for Binaural sound therapy? My brain waves show that my left and right brains are not in synch. Now I wonder if maybe something like this would get them back into synch.

    There is nothing wrong with the Bee Gees IF you are in the right frame of mind. But again, my brain LOVES Justin Hayward's voice, guitar, lyrics (poetry) just so much that Hayward and the Moody Blues are ALL that I play now - over and over and over. Really calms the brain down with certain songs and uplifts the spirits with other songs. Better than a drug. And, after I have been to a Moody Blues concert, the next day I feel like I have had a super religious/spiritual experience and am euphoric. Feeling only lasts a day but wow, what a nice feeling for that day to get away from the ugly of CFS/FM for me.

    Odd, can't really stand any noise day/night EXCEPT Justin Hayward and the Moody Blues. NO Noise. No TV. Just silence. But JH and MB - fine. And really fine during/after their concerts which would normally knock me down near death with that noise and energy were it another group or event and one with so many people all around me making even more noise.
  14. doug

    doug

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    I haven't tried the binaural sounds yet. There are expensive porograms (Monroe Institute) but you can also buy individual CD's with overlying music. Free binaural sounds only are available (http://www.bwgen.com/download.htm) I've downloaded this, but need to send it to my other computer with the Itune account. Sounds like white noise, but supposed to be effective at very low listening levels.
  15. Mark

    Mark Acting CEO

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    Nice to see this old thread revived. :D

    Oh yes indeed - what a chilling thought! :eek: :D
  16. addicteddogma32

    addicteddogma32

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    I have some binaural sounds on my PC somewhere and this thread has inspired me to listen to them while I work on my own website. Only thing I can't find my headphones after moving recently. Drat.
  17. Noah_Scape

    Noah_Scape

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    Yes, it is amazing how music can come through all the muddle of neurological problems. I have a nephew who has severe neurological deficits due to the ravages of AIDS; he can barely walk or even feed himself, and yet he is once again playing his Cello, and playing it well, actually doing concerts and so on [Vancouver].

    I have been tinkering with the piano lately, singing along when I am alone. I am trying to memorise lyrics now too, and that must be helping some parts of my addled brain.
  18. stevenski

    stevenski Guest

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    Anyone who is a serious lover of, and listener to, classical music, especially, Romantic era music, and piano music, please get in touch. Thx Stevenski
  19. Sing

    Sing Senior Member

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