I was asked by a parent only this week, why music was so important to the Snowdrop programme. Many children with developmental disabilities like cerebral palsy and autism also experience learning difficulties, - the power of music to influence cognition makes it an important facet of any programme of rehabilitation.
A recent volume of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences takes a closer look at how music evolved and how we respond to it. Contributors to the volume believe that animals such as birds, dolphins and whales make sounds analogous to music out of a desire to imitate each other. This ability to learn and imitate sounds is a trait necessary to acquire language and scientists feel that many of the sounds animals make may be precursors to human music.
Another study in the volume looks at whether music training can make individuals smarter. Scientists found more grey matter in the auditory cortex of the right hemisphere in musicians compared to nonmusicians. They feel these differences are probably not genetic, but instead due to use and practice.
Listening to classical music, particularly Mozart, has recently been thought to enhance performance on cognitive tests. Contributors to this volume take a closer look at this assertion and their findings indicate that listening to any music that is personally enjoyable has positive effects on cognition. In addition, the use of music to enhance memory is explored and research suggests that musical recitation enhances the coding of information by activating neural networks in a more united and thus more optimal fashion.
Other studies in this volume look at music's positive effects on health and immunity, how music is processed in the brain, the interplay between language and music, and the relationship between our emotions and music.
The Neurosciences and Music II is volume 1060 of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences .