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Music & The Brain

There is a mounting body of research evidence and opinion amongst carers of patients with dementia that one way of connecting with the person and triggering memories is by playing music with a personal significance. In children with autism, music can be used to develop emotional, social and communication skills. And in patients with an acquired brain injury, music can be used within a programme of speech therapy to develop language function. How does the brain process music? How do different regions of the brain respond to timbre, pitch, intensity, rhythm? How can music influence our behaviour? Why might some musical pieces preferentially activate reward centers in the brain?What sort of brain disorders might be associated with hyper- or hypo-musicality and how might music be employed to 'rewire' the brains of neurologically-impaired patients? In this lecture, we will take a wonderful trip into the psychology and neurology of music, considering all of the above questions and recounting recent research investigating the many advantages of acquiring a musical skill, from the cognitive and neurological to the social and emotional. The creation and appreciation of music, it will be argued, is an important facet of what it is to be human.

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