Why Your Brain Loves Music2
How It Gets In
May 10, 2015
In Part 1, we established that the brain (a supercomputer full of stored information) is capable of downloading bytes from its immediate environment.
But, unlike many types of information our attention trips over, such as the things we read, the brain seems to absorb musical notes and lyrics like a sponge.
It is incredible the brain remembers anything at all, considering the sheer volume of information coming at it from all sides.
Not to mention, the ecosystem on this side of your skin.
In life’s blizzard of sights and sounds, it is hard for the brain to sift through the data.
But every once in a while, we catch a snowflake on our soul, and idealize this new distinct pattern amid the chaos.
As this novel vibration washes into the dock of the bay, our brains turn on neuron patio lanterns. And we welcome this new vibrating visitor, at the side porch of our mind.
Here’s how music gets in. The brain is a master of sensory transduction.
This is how it can take a vibration, and turn it into an electrical email for its inbox.
Sound is a type of energy called ‘mechanical’ because when sound is created, it literally hammers and wrenches the air around it, bending it into temporary patterns, for as long as the noise is being created. If the sound changes, so does the shape of the wave.
They travel through the air, in the same fashion ripples are generated, when a pebble is dropped in a pond. The oscillations of water travel much more slowly compared to sound, but whether you are at symphony, or Tsunami;
Once the sinusoid strikes the tympanic membrane, the vibration finally leaves air, and becomes part of the the solid foyer of us.
All sound information is captured as infinitesimal vibrations played on the ear drum.
In the ear’s workshop of tiny bones, the ossicles translate these tiny movements, and chisel out a Morse code message.
The next edit occurs, when this recording of tiny movements, slithers into the brain’s liquid amphitheater of sound. In this uterus of Corti, some songs soothe like the womb; with a perfect hair day.
This organ’s cheveux is the equalizer of the brain, and this last Basilar comb creates the frequencies.
Now, a new rough cut is delivered, via track number 8, to the neural population of the brain. The public of your consciousness then decides, whether this new entry makes the mind’s top ten; of all time.
The brain is separated into 4 lobes in all mammals. Its divisions are like religions, all fighting for the same thing, but with different accents on the notes of life.
The Frontal lobe is in the front, and the Parietal lobe is kinda in the middle. The expression ‘eyes in the back of your head’, should help you remember the location of the Occipital lobe.
The Temporal lobes, on each side of the brain, accomplish many things. For now, let’s just think of them as your cranium’s sound recording and editing studio.
Within these sonic temples, the auditory cortex sorts out melodies, rhythm, and all other noises. Some are highlighted, and a tidy package of sound reality is gift wrapped, for any other member of the brain to enjoy.
Some of these musical signals tug on the heartstrings of your being. Those one-bit wonders are specially stored, with the help of this lobe, under the mix-tape mattress of your mind, for safe keeping.
Most of us groove to certain musical genres, instruments, lyrics and personalities. If I say ‘Country music‘, for some of you, so much Dopamine is released, we had better wait before knockin’, while your cortex is a rockin’.
For others, having to suffer through it conjures up wishful fantasies, where Aboriginals won, singingly.
Once the music is playing on the temporal lobe’s sound stage, what happens next largely depends upon how engaged we become. And this has much to do with the context at the time, and what meaning we extracted from the song.
Developmental factors and social forces greatly shape which songs our minds hold on to, which you shall soon see.
It is an absolute gift to have music, and there is enough for everybody.
Part 3 will cover how music, as a special type of sensory stimuli, has special properties that organize our brains, and the mind reaps the pleasurable rewards.
Please stand by, as the record is changed.
Simon Trepel, MD
Simon Trepel, MD FRCPC, is a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, in Winnipeg, Canada. He is an Assistant Professor, at the University Of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Medicine, and the Co-founder of the GDAAY Clinic. He is, more importantly, the proud Father of 2 beautiful Daughters. He writes in his spare time about things he knows something about, and occasionally about things he doesn’t; like Yoga, and Italian flavored coffees. He was not referring to coffee that tastes like an Italian person.
Check out his Blog, called Simon Says Psych Stuff, at