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The Neuroscience Of Music & Its Relationship With The Brain

The study of biological systems of the brain using music as a mechanism is known as the “neuroscience of music”. Many studies were conducted by scientists to identify how musical elements affect our brains. So let’s dig deeper into the subject of neuroscience to get insights into musical performance.

Music neuroscience contains all musical activities such as listening, performing, composing, reading, and writing music and tunes. All activities are complex and coordinate with several areas of the brain in a hierarchically structured sequence.

Musical Elements Uses in Neuroscience Of Music

Your tour with Neuroscience and music will be more enjoyable if you first familiarize yourself with the following elements of music.

Musical Elements

1. Rhythm

In music, Rhythm is the element of “time”. Every time you tap your feet to the sound of music, You are following the rhythm of the music.

2. Dynamics

All musical factors related to the loudness and soundness of music are classified as dynamics.

3. Melody

It is a horizontal presentation of Pitch. In music, Pitch is defined as the position of a single sound in the complete range of sound.

A high frequency (~880 Hz) produces a high pitch & A low frequency (~55 Hz) produces a low pitch.

4. Harmony

It is a verticalization of the pitch. Sometimes, Harmony is also referred to as the art of combining pitches into chords. These chords are typically grouped in sentence-like patterns known as chord progressions.

Harmonica Vs Melody

5. Tone

Music tone can refer to intervals on a scale, specific musical notes, or the quality of a sound. When a tone refers to a pitch, it could make music.

A full step is composed of two half-steps. For example, A whole step from C to D is made from C to C-sharp and C-sharp to D. These are also known as “tones” or “semitones.” A semitone is equivalent to half a tone or a half-step.

6. Texture

The quantity of separate musical lines (melodies) and their connection to each other are referred to as texture.

  • Monophonic Texture

Music that primarily performs one note at a time with no harmony or accompaniment has Monophonic Texture.

  • Homophonic Texture

Music with two or more notes playing, ‌but with a dominant melody in the top portion based on homogenous chords and blocks of sound.

  • Polyphonic Texture

Music with two or more separate melodies playing at the same time. Canon and fugue are the most difficult varieties of polyphonic texture. And it can introduce three, four, five, or more separate melodies at the same time! Which is called COUNTERPOINT.

  • Heterophony Texture

It is a less common musical texture. When a musical note is ECHOED from “voice to “voice”, it creates a specific ‌polyphonic texture called Heterophony.

Even through Heterophony, it is possible to produce monophonic styles. It is more common in polyphonic art music, particularly that from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Musical Texture

Musical Performance and Motor Control Elements

Musical Performance ‌contains 3 Motor Control Elements. Time, Sequence, and Spatial Organization.

Musicians’ crystallized sensory-motor abilities enable creative and virtuoso music performance, which has enthralled people for ages. It comes from long-term musical training.

Music Neuroscience research has looked at these functions and made brain foundations separately.

1. Time

The neural mechanism includes time moment. It is controversial research over the past 20 years. In music therapy & neuroscience, most of the study, behavior, and sensory-motor processing depends on timing.

The capacity to phrase motions in precise time has been related to a cerebral metronome or clock system where time is represented by oscillations or pulses.

The Functional neuroimaging studies and studies of brain-damaged patients suggested that Movement timing has been associated with many cortical and subcortical areas, including the cerebellum, basal ganglia, and supplementary motor area (SMA).

In particular, interval timing has been linked to the basal ganglia and maybe the SMA at longer durations (1 second and above), but the cerebellum may play a greater role in controlling motor timing at shorter timescales (milliseconds).

These studies show that motor timing is not only controlled by a single brain region. It all depends on the specific parameters and relevant timescale of the rhythmic sequence.

2. Sequence

Motor sequencing has been studied in terms of the coordination of individual motions of our body parts. The basal ganglia, SMA and pre-SMA (inner parts of the brain), cerebellum, and the premotor and prefrontal cortices are all included in the production sequences.

The cerebellum is potentially crucial for learning sequences and for combining different motions into uniform sequences. And more complicated movement sequences have been ‌organized or chunked by the pre-SMA and SMA.

The premotor cortex engages in activities requiring the generation of rather complicated sequences.

3. Spatial Organization

A small research on complicated motor control shows the differences between sequential and spatial organization. Yet, expert musical performances need both sequential movement sequencing and spatial organization.

Studies on both humans and animals have shown that parietal, sensory-motor and premotor cortices play a major role in movement regulation when you merge the spatial, sensory, and motor information.

Relationships of Neuroscience of Music With Brain

  • Relation Between Music & Communication Systems

The auditory-motor has 2 systems for communication, which are called “feed-forward” and “feedback” systems.

A “Feed-forward” interaction is an auditory system that mostly influences the motor output. Examples are beat tapping, rhythmic accents in a piece of music, the effect of music on movement disorders, etc.

A “Feedback” interaction output comes from instruments or singing elements like pitch.

Motor performance is changed considerably when auditory feedback is experimentally adjusted by delays or distortions. A change in pitch affects the choice of actions but not the time of those actions Whereas asynchronous feedback affects just the timing of events.

  • Relation Between Music & Languages

Language and music are two aspects of human culture that differ ‌from each other. But some characteristics are similar between music and language.

For example, Languages contain melodies, which linguists refer to as prosody. Pitch, rhythm, and tempo are musical elements that communicate and belong to the neuroscience of music and emotion.

Even if people cannot grasp the language, they can easily understand speakers’ emotional states. Additionally, music differs from language because it follows principles for arranging components like notes, chords, and intervals to create intricate structures that express emotional meaning.

The relation between speech and music is represented in the older theory, too. It gave information about the lateralization of language and music. The study said that the language process is located in the brain’s left hemisphere and music activities in the right hemisphere.

The most important correlation between language and music is that music may benefit us in remembering words. It has been proven that learning words with a song rather than speech improves memory in certain situations.

  • Relation Between Neuroscience of Music & Emotion

Listeners can experience chills and thrills because of the strong emotional reactions that music can generate. Most of the time music generates positive emotions and releases associated rewards, such as dopamine.

Listening to music is a simple approach to changing one’s mood or reducing tension. Music is used by people in their daily lives to regulate & enhance mood and lessen negative emotional states (e.g., stress, fatigue).

Read: Even You Don’t Know How Does Music Affect Your Mood !!!

  • Relation Between Music and Memory Improvements

It’s interesting to know how music and memory interact with each other. Old songs trigger memories and powerful emotions.

The feeling of memorizing a moment while listening to music is one that everyone can connect with. There are two categories of memory recall: Explicit and Implicit.

Both implicit and explicit memory are types of long-term memory. Implicit memory refers to information that you recall unconsciously and quickly, whereas explicit memory refers to information that you have to work hard to remember.

Explicit and Implicit Memory

  • Relation Between Music & Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is a concept used by scientists to describe the brain’s ability to adapt and change behavior with the training and experience you gain in life.

Much research has already been conducted to study the effect of music on the human brain. Several studies have shown that long-term musical training produces structural and functional brain neuroplastic changes, which may cause cognitive differences between musicians and non-musicians.

It shows that structural and functional cerebral characteristics are absent in non-musicians, Which is generated from musical training.

In the studies of Northwestern Academy, Nina Kraus strongly suggests that your brain can develop a neural connection when you learn a musical instrument. And it also activates your brain for other aspects of human communication.

For a better understanding of the relationship between neuroscience music and the brain, she also added that an active engagement with musical sounds not only enhances your neuroplasticity but also makes it possible for the nervous system to offer a steady foundation of meaningful patterns in the brain that is crucial for learning.

Music and Neuroscience

  • By Music Knowledge

According to music knowledge, we can differentiate the brain structure of musical and non-musical people.

In 2003, Gaser and Schlaug compared the brain structures of professional musicians with non-musicians. And from the research, they found gray matter volume differences in motor, auditory and visual-spatial brain regions.

According to Krings et al, Professional pianists had lower levels of cortical activation in the brain’s motor areas. It suggested that long-term motor practice causes altered cortical activation patterns.

Even skilled keyboard players have also unimanual and bimanual finger movements. In the 2000 study, Koelsch, Gunter, Friederici, and Schoger investigated how musicians and non-musicians processed music from previous musical backgrounds. Their work was concerned with unexpected chords and the possibility of transgression.

The result shows that the human brain unintentionally extrapolates expectations about impending auditory input. Even in non-musicians, extrapolated expectations are generated with music theory.

  • By Gender

In 2003, Koelsch, Maess, Grossmann, and Friederici’s research focused on gender differences in functional brain structure for music processing. Their research suggests that males appear to have more control over their left hemisphere than females.

Data sets of music experiments with event-related brain potentials (ERPs) gave a result that In females, an electrophysiological correlate of music-syntactic processing (ERAN, or music-syntactic MMN) is generated bilaterally. And in the male, the process is done with right hemispheric predominance.

  • By Headedness Difference

It has been shown that lefthanded people, particularly those who are also versatile, beat right-handers in short-term memory for the pitch. This is because left-handed persons have greater storage duplication in the two hemispheres than right-handed ones.

Other research has shown that there are statistical changes in how musical patterns are heard by right-handers and lefthanders when sounds arrive from different locations in space. This illusion is formed by ascending and descending major scales that begin in different stereo channels and move to the opposite channel with each note.

You can know further details to read studies on the Octave illusion and Scale illusion.

The Power Of Music Imaginations

Musical imagination is the experience of recreating music in one’s brain by picturing it. Because of their vast musical training, musicians have a higher talent for musical visualization.

For the first time, the power of music imagination task in musicians and non-musicians was examined in 2008 by Herholz, Lappe, Knief, and Pantev. They used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to find out the difference in the processing of a musical imagery task, with familiar melodies in musicians and non-musicians.


The study looked at the possibility of the mismatch negativity (MMN) being based only on noise images. Participants were required to listen to a tune’s beginning, continue it in their heads, and then hear a right or wrong tone as a final extension of the tune.

These tunes’ visualization was powerful enough to cause early attentional brain responses in the musicians to surprise changes.

Furthermore, the findings confirmed that altering the imagery mismatch negativity (iMMN) by rigorous musical training leads to the development of enhanced imagery and preattentive music processing skills.

There may be a neurological foundation in the brain that connects musical imagery with perceptual musical processing. In 1996 research worked, Zatorre, Halpern, Perry, Meyer, and Evans used PET to look at variations in cerebral blood flow (CBF) associated with auditory imagery and perceptual tasks. PET offers reliable, reproducible, and precise in-vivo measurements of human CBF.

CBF increases in the inferior frontal polar cortex and right thalamus suggest that These areas might be involved in the development and/or storage of auditory memories.


The field of music neuroscience helps us know how music affects the brain. Similar to language, music is a complex, regulated activity that appears to be unique to humans and is linked to a certain type of brain architecture.

Yet, unlike most other high-level functions of the human brain, music is a skill that only a small percentage of individuals master. So, Music neuroscience research on a major brain function has for some time been relatively neglected.

We at WellHeal have put in efforts to provide information on how neuroscience, psychology, and neurology by digging deep into a collection of research done by dignified organizations and colleges across the globe.

We hope that by this point you have a solid understanding of how music can be helpful in making new neural pathways. And hopefully, next time, If you are suffering from a mental illness, You will try music therapy with healing music.


The information provided here is just for educational purposes only. Kindly consult your physician before making any medical changes.