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Bilingual news and shares about the brain, languages and coaching

Newsletter 20 - Music

the N in NeuroLanguage Coaching®

"Music gives a soul to the universe, Wings to the mind, Flight to the imagination, and life to everything." 

- Plato

Let’s talk about music !

For the next 3 weeks, we’ll talk about how music affects our brain, how it can help us learn languages and how you it can be used in coaching. So, let’s 1st find out how Music activates different parts of our brain.

When I started this newsletter on music and the brain, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. To share with you everything that fascinated me on the subject, I'd need much more than a newsletter. So here's a condensed version. Stay tuned though, parts 2 and 3 are still to come :-)

This is how it all started

I was at a frozen food store a few weeks ago, music was playing in the background, and I was humming along. Checking out all the yummy stuff I could choose from, I caught myself singing (whisper-singing and the store was empty :-D

♫ ♫ “I know your eyes in the morning sun, I feel you touch me in the pouring rain, And the moment that you wander far from me, I wanna feel you in my arms again (...) How deep is your love, how deep is your love, I really mean to learn, 'Cause we're living in a world of fools, Breaking us down, when they all should let us be, We belong to you and me…”♫ ♫

I hadn’t even realized I was singing…until I did :-). I couldn't believe I was singing along to a Bee Gees song I hadn’t heard in a very very long time (at least as far as I’m aware). Here’s the thing: I most likely heard the song numerous times unknowingly, in an elevator, in a store, somewhere.

I knew the lyrics to the song. If you’d asked me 5 minutes earlier if I did, I would have said “No”…and yet, evidence shows that it’s imprinted somewhere in my brain (why, why remember that and not remember much more useful information?).

What’s fascinating here is that it’s not a song I particularly like. One might even say I used to dislike it. :-) So what gives? Is it because I heard that song a lot before a certain age? Or a number of “reminders” I had over the years? Or? Or?

I asked myself a lot of questions and googled and youtubed “music and the brain” and “the neuroscience of music” as soon as I got home. So much information Oh My God!

I tried summarizing what I learned, focus!

“Initial belief that music processing is in the right hemisphere is challenged; recent findings show music is distributed throughout the brain."

Like for instance :

The Brainstem

The brainstem is the oldest and most basic part of our brain. It’s responsible for regulating vital functions such as breathing, heartbeat, and reflexes.

More interestingly in our case, the brainstem helps us synchronize our movements with the rhythm of music. You know when you drum your fingers, tap your foot, or bob your head to the beat even when you’re originally just sitting still ? That’s the brainstem activating the motor cortex - a part of the brain that controls movement.

The Basal Ganglia

The basal ganglia is a group of nuclei deep within the brain that plays a key role in motor control, cognition, emotion, and reward processing. One of the main structures within the basal ganglia that is involved in musical reward is the striatum, a deep brain structure that is associated with pleasurable experiences. The striatum is connected to the auditory cortex, which processes the sound of music, and the orbitofrontal cortex, which evaluates how much we like a music. 

Interesting fact: The basal ganglia also responds to the anticipation and the climax of music. When we expect a musical peak, such as a chorus or a solo, the basal ganglia releases dopamine before the peak arrives. When the peak comes, another burst of dopamine occurs, creating a rewarding experience that we want to repeat.

The Limbic system

The limbic system - which includes among other structure the amygdala and the hippocampus - is sensitive to the emotional content of music. It can make us feel sad, happy, give us the chills. The chills for example, are caused by the activation of the same brain regions that are involved in fear - except this time they’re experienced as a safe and enjoyable form of intensity.

  • The hippocampus is actively involved in both the creation and recall of long-term memories. It acts like a switchboard that connects different parts of your memory, which perhaps explains why hearing music - that we haven't heard for a very long time, for example - can provoke strong feelings and trigger specific memories. Music and memory are the subjects of active scientific research.

  • The amygdala responds to the social aspects of music. When we sing or play music with others, it releases oxytocin, associated with empathy, trust, and relationship building. Singing or playing music with others can also lower our cortisol levels. By reducing our cortisol levels, music can help us cope with stress and improve our well-being. I talked about it in detail here.

The Cerebral Cortex

The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the brain in mammals and the most recently evolved part of the brain. It’s associated with various complex cognitive processes, such as sensory perception, motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought, and language. It’s often considered the seat of higher mental functions.

The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain that analyzes the intricate patterns and complexities of musical compositions. It decodes melodies, harmonies, and rhythms, allowing us to appreciate the richness and depth of the musical experience. It also enables us to recognize musical genres, styles, and emotions.

In my next newsletter, we’ll explore the relationship between music and languages, and how they can enhance our learning and performance.

Want to find out more?

If you're curious about my sources or want to know more about the neuroscience of music, you should click here

And if you want to go back on my past newsletters that cover all kinds of brain related, language related, coaching related fascinating subjects, I suggest you go to my newsletters webpage

If you know anyone who'd be interested in signing up for my newsletter, don't hesitate to forward this newsletter to them :-)

Neurolanguage Coaching® is an amazing method that will help you learn a language more efficiently than you've ever experienced before. It brings together findings about how the brain learns bests and integrates these into a coaching process that will put you in charge of YOUR learning journey. As a Coach, I'm  the GPS to your driving. If you want to try it but are not ready to commit, I have a 2H Discovery Offer that might be just what you're looking for. Or we can just have a casual chat about it, just reply to this email.

Good to know

The Neurolanguage Coaching® certification is accredited by the ICF

 La certification est accreditée par la Fédération Internationale de Coaching

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