How Music Reshapes the Injured Brain




Music is a highly structured auditory language involving complex perception, cognition, and motor control in the brain, and thus it can effectively be used to reshape and reeducate the injured brain. The brain areas involved in music are also active in processing language, auditory perception, attention, memory, and motor control (G. Schlaug, 2008). Music activates key areas in the brain facilitates complex patterns of interaction among them. For example, the same areas in the frontal lobe are activated whether a person is solving Sudoku puzzle or in comprehending a musical piece. This region, called Broca’s area after the French neurologist from the 19th century who described its function, is also important in processing the sequencing of physical movement and in tracking musical rhythms, and it is critical for converting thought into spoken words. Scientists speculate, therefore, that Broca’s area supports the appropriate timing, sequencing, and knowledge of rules that are common and essential to music, speech, and movement (Hummelsheim, 1999). The suggestion that music learning changes the brain is backed by research, which shows that through such learning, auditory and motor areas in the brain grow larger and interact more efficiently.

A recent study shows novice pianists with just a few weeks of training began to show that various regions in their brains that serve as hand control become larger and more connected. It quickly became clear that music can drive plasticity in the human brain, shaping it through training and learning (A. P. Leone, 2001). Through the research conducted by Leone and colleagues we can assert that the brain changes in structure and function as a result of learning, training, and environmental influences. Exposure to external stimuli and experience will create new and more efficient connections between neurons in the brain in a sort of “rewiring” process. This “rewiring” process is least effective during passive stimulation; active learning is a must if there is to be any rewiring in the injured brain. Music therapy seeks to take advantage of this by making subtle changes in the brains structure that result in not only in the augmentation of learning, but also to diminish the pain of an injured individual.