Got Rhythm? This Type of Music Boosts Brain Performance

Dancing to musical rhythms is a universal human activity. But now, researchers from Japan have found that dancing doesn't just feel good, it also enhances brain function. In a study recently published in Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of Tsukuba have revealed that music with a groove, known as groove music, can significantly increase measures of executive function and associated brain activity in participants who are familiar with the music.

Music that elicits the sensation of groove can elicit feelings of pleasure and enhance behavioral arousal levels. Exercise, which has similar positive effects, is known to enhance executive function. Accordingly, this may also be an effect of listening to groove music. However, no studies have examined the effect of groove music on executive function or brain activity in regions associated with executive function, such as the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (l-DLPFC), which the researchers at University of Tsukuba aimed to address.

Groove Music & Executive Function

"Groove rhythms elicit groove sensations and positive affective responses. However, whether they influence executive function is unknown," says lead author of the study Professor Hideaki Soya. Researchers performed brain imaging on the study participants while they completed a color-word matching task. They did the same task twice -- once while listening to a groove track for three minutes and once without.

The groove track was created on GarageBand with a rhythm of 120 beats per minute with drum beats. To understand if any results could be linked to music taste, researchers also asked participants about their experience listening to groove music. Participants were also asked if they were connecting with the rhythm or struggling to synchronize with the beat.  

"The results were surprising," explains Professor Soya. "We found that groove rhythm enhanced executive function and activity in the l-DLPFC only in participants who reported that the music elicited a strong groove sensation and the sensation of being clear-headed."

In fact, these psychological responses to listening to groove rhythm could predict changes in executive function and l-DLPFC activity. "Our findings indicate that individual differences in psychological responses to groove music modulate the corresponding effects on executive function. As such, the effects of groove rhythm on human cognitive performance may be influenced by familiarity or beat processing ability," says Professor Soya.

Benefits of Enhanced Executive Function

Strategies for enhancing executive function have a wide range of potential applications, from preventing dementia in elderly people to helping employees enhance their performance. Furthermore, the positive effects of groove music on executive function could include the effects of positive emotions and of rhythmic synchronization. This could help to explain the many positive benefits of dancing, or any form of exercise conducted while listening to music. Further research is needed to develop applications for this new information.

StepUp Note

Research shows that exercise, in general, promotes healthy brain development. This research shows how adding a rhythmic beat can measurably improve focused attention for a learning task (the Stroop effect). StepUp uses rhythmic movement and coordinated talking to enhance sustained, self-directed attention (self-regulation). These movement exercises include rhythmic talking, which helps children learn basic skills, including reading decoding, math fact retrieval and handwriting fluency.



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Reposted from University of Tsukuba

Note by Nancy W Rowe M.S., CCC/A