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Your Brain On Music

Fri, 11/30/2012 - 2:27pm -- WCVE

Music is a form of communication which, like language, is inherent to human behavior and brain function. The Richmond Academy of Medicine recently learned about Your Brain on Music in an evening presentation held at the Country Club of Virginia with a Penn State Professor and a rag time piano player–a classically-trained piano player with his own exceptional “brain on music” story to tell.

Seventy year old Bob Milne possesses an extraordinary talent. For most of his life, he’s has been able to play ragtime on the piano effortlessly often while carrying on a conversation. He’s also demonstrated he can imagine hearing several songs at the same time. He never really practiced. Does his brain work better or just differently?

Watch this Science Matters report from WCVE Public Radio’s John Ogle:

Dr. Kirsten Betterman, an associate professor of neurology at Penn State College of Medicine and Director of the college’s Vascular Neurology Fellowship Program, explained what the neuroscience of music throughout recent centuries teaches us about how the brain works in areas including synesthesia, neuronal substrates of music, and brain plasticity.

Dr. Betterman’s highlighted case study features Mr. Milne, a classically-trained professional piano player with perfect pitch. His enhanced auditory processing and multi-tasking abilities allow him to play multiple complex rhythms simultaneously while carrying on conversations and lecturing to audiences on ragtime music history. MRI’s indicate that when it comes to imagining music, Mr. Milne uses different brain networks than other people and messages cross his brain much more simply than expected.

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