Music & Cognition
Music is a fundamental element of human culture that has been in existence nearly as long as humans have existed. Most people who listen to and appreciate music can personally attest to the power or influence music has. We listen to certain songs or types of music to reinforce or change our moods. Each person knows what songs will bring on a rush of memories or sensations that are unique to that person's life and experience. What many people may not be aware of is that the influence and power of music is more than affective; the effects of music on the brain and on people generally have been proven to be scientific. There is substantial scientific research, both from the social sciences and the hard sciences that clearly demonstrate the power of music on the brain, with specific respect to cognition. The paper will explore and analyze how the effects of music on cognition with reference to some of the scientific evidence available as well as reference a real life example of the capacity of music to assist & rebuild cognition in Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Giffords is the third woman to ever have been elected to Congress. As aforementioned, she represented the state of Arizona up until her formal resignation in late January of this year. Giffords resigned as a result of injuries sustained during a shooting in 2011. She and several other people, including children, were victims of a shooting in January. Giffords herself was shot in the head. During a visit to some of her...
The damage of her injuries was quite severe, imaginably, including loss of the ability to walk, talk, read, and write. When she awoke from her medically induced coma, she began several types of therapy including speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and significantly, musical therapy.
Scientists are still working out the details of how this kind of therapy works. But one likely explanation is that music is represented in many areas of the brain, while just two brain regions process language. Music also tends to dig deeper, more well-worn pathways between neurons. So, in patients like Giffords -- who suffered left-hemisphere brain damage that knocked out her Broca's area, a major language center -- often, at least some musical areas remain intact. Through music, then, patients can reach into their stored knowledge about words and use songs to create new connections for speech. (Sohn, How Music Helped, 2012)
Giffords was able to sing before she regained the ability to speak. Giffords serves as a modern and successful case study of how music helps a great deal in the recovery from brain injuries. Parts of Giffords skull are missing and some of the less important areas of her brain were damaged as a result of the shooting. Nonetheless, the music therapy in conjunction with neuroscience has helped her regain a great deal of normalcy to her life.
The parts of the brain that respond and correspond to music are very different than their linguistic counterparts. There exists music cognition…
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