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Research shows brain waves sync to the music we're listening to

Nick Summers, @nisummers
October 27, 2015
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Many of us naturally tap our feet when we want to keep in time with a tricky piece of music. However, researchers at New York University have discovered that this physical technique is but one example of our how our bodies naturally interpret tunes. Deep inside our skulls we have two types of low-frequency brain waves, delta and theta, that automatically synchronise with the music we're listening to. These cortical brain rhythms help us to process the piece -- they perform a similar function in conversation, breaking down syllables, words and phrases so that we can understand what someone's trying to tell us.

Researchers identified the musical synchronisation using magnetoencephalography, which measures tiny magnetic fields inside the brain. In a group that included both musicians and non-musicians, they noticed that the former were better at synchronising with unusually slow pieces of music. The difference, the team says, can be attributed to how these individuals are able to process tracks as both melodies and individual notes. They're also better equipped than non-musicians to identify pitch distortions, which are then replicated and synced through these cortical brain rhythms. Researchers believe that our brains can, therefore, be taught to make better use of these innate and involuntary audio-detection systems. Maybe those classical piano lessons weren't such a bad idea after all?

[Image Credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon]

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