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Monday, December 29, 2008

The Musical Brain

This is a wonderful article, written by my mentor, Dr. Arthur Harvey. I know you'll like it!

by Dr. Arthur Harvey
From recent brain research on learning styles, it has been esti­mated that 80-90% of what is experienced and learned is non­verbal, with what sometimes is described as a "right-brain" mode of processing.
We know that for most children and many adults, music is a "right-brain" dominant activity. Based upon that, music may be a powerful and perhaps dominant means of facilitating positive and expressive feelings that can be experienced individu­ally and in groups to take them outside themselves.
In other words, music provides a symbolic means of objectifying feelings and emotions, which then can be dealt with. Music-making can be an emotionally cathartic experience, as feelings which are often "bottled-up", sometimes due to lack of words to identify and describe them, are released through music. After music-making, we often hear musicians, young and old, com­menting that they feel better, energized, and renewed.
UP: Music has the wonderful ability to lift UP spirits. Parades, pep rallies, school socials, church services, concerts, radio and television, and recordings are examples of situations and pro­cesses through which most of us have experience our moods, emotions, and feelings being lifted. There are both psychological and physiological explanations for why and how music can and should be used for this purpose during a stressful time.
As music stimulates creative and imaginative thinking linked with positive emotional feelings, individuals experience a transformation or transition of being lifted UP from mundane concerns. When these are the result of music experiences that produce what psychologist Abraham Maslow termed "peak experiences", there is a temporary sense of being lifted UP beyond the limitations of normal time-space constraints, often resulting in a sense of non-linear time and feeling of being "one with the music".
Maslow describes these experi­ences as necessary steps toward what he called the "self-actualiza­tion" process, and suggested in a symposium at Tanglewood that music may be the most effective means of lifting individuals UP toward emotionally healthy growth. Psychiatrist John Diamond, a pioneer in behavioral kinesiology, has focused his career and publica­tions on exploring the power of music to give us "life energy". In his books, Your Body Doesn't Lie and Life Energy in Music, he shares how music can increase our strength and lift us UP mentally and emotionally.
In recent years a significant amount of research has been done exploring the connection between music and how it affects the human brain. With the discov­ery of the neuropeptide endor­phins, it was found that music can stimulate its production, reducing pain reception as well as lifting UP spirits.
Throughout the history of mankind, music has been known as a media­tor between the physical world and the spiritual world, and has been an integral part of all cultures and most religions. Music can alter our consciousness, helping us to transcend our sensory-limited, inwardly-focused experiences, and expand beyond our experience­ based reality. Mystic, meditative and spiritual experiences are often initiated through music, as well as heightened by music.
Albert Schweitzer wrote, "All true and deeply felt music, whether sacred or profane, journeys to heights where arts and religion can always meet".
In recognizing the power of music to enhance our lives, Charles Darwin wrote, "If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once a week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature".
Music can have a positive influence on many aspects of our lives. In a recent release from the American Music Conference, the following 10 Fast Facts were included concerning the impact music can have on learning, health, and wellness.
(1) Music has an obvious impact on the brain and should be supported and encouraged, especially in early childhood education and through­out all stages and ages of learning.
(2) Playing an instrument strength­ens eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills, as well as concentra­tion, memory, and attitude.
(3) Research shows that music training improves spatial-temporal reasoning in preschool children. which is necessary for learning math and science, as well as other subjects.
(4) A recent study showed that a curriculum combining piano lessons, educational math software, and fun math problems, helped second graders achieve scores on advanced math concepts and Stanford 9 math scores comparable to those of fourth graders.
(5) Students who make music have been shown to get along better with classmates and have fewer disci­pline problems.
(6) Young people who are involved in making music in their teenage years score 100 points higher on the SAT's than those who don't play music.
(7) Senior citizens who are actively involved in music-making enjoy significant health benefits. For example, studies show that music activates the cerebellum and therefore may aid stroke victims in regaining language capabilities.
(8) Many of the challenges that plague older Americans appear to respond positively to active music­ making. For example, scientific studies show improvements in the brain chemistry of people suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.
(9) Studies show that older Ameri­cans who are actively involved in music-making show improvements in anxiety, loneliness, and depres­sion-three factors that are critical in coping with stress, stimulating the immune system, and improving health.
(10) A breakthrough study demon­strated that group keyboard lessons given to older Americans had a significant effect on increasing levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which is implicated in such aging phenomena as osteoporosis, energy levels, wrinkling, sexual function, muscle mass, and aches and pains.

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