Every known human culture has music, and how the brain recognizes and appreciates music -- a field known as the neurobiology of music -- reveals that there is no one 'music center' in our brain. Although specific parts of the brain are dedicated to the sense of sound, vast areas must work together to generate the complex experience we call music, including areas of working memory, forethought, movement and emotion.
We were communicating emotions and ideas with grunts, groans, chants, and hums well before we were enunciating complex ideas like the ones we're sharing right now.
-- Mark Jude Tramo
Harvard Medical School, Mass. General Hospital
While people are playing or listening to music, sophisticated new technology is able to observe unique brain patterns for melody, harmony, rhythm, timbre, pitch, and style. There even may be a universal set of rules that govern how these patterns of tones and rhythm become music in our brain.
Music's inherent symmetry and organizational principles tap into a deep human need to order, or manage, our environment. Its nonverbal essence may enable physical, mental and emotional benefits beyond aural enjoyment, because the plasticity of the brain, active during infancy and early childhood and even into adulthood and old age, may be stimulated by music, yielding richer, healthier, better functioning brains. While the so-called "Mozart Effect" may have some minor validity -- kids seem to do better at a task for 10 minutes after hearing Mozart -- but longer lasting effects are not evident, neurobiologists still suspect that someday we'll understand how music positively enhances brain processes, social interaction, and intelligence, as they suspect.