Why and how might music offer relief to patients suffering from disorders of consciousness and their families?
Recent neuroimaging studies show that individual differences in various traits ranging from perceptual and cognitive skills to personality features can be predicted to some degree from the structure of the brain. Musicianship entails a combination of years of intensive practice of specific auditory, motor and cognitive skills, as well as perhaps innate musical capability. How this combination of intensive training and innate skills is reflected in the structure and function of the brains of musicians is something that has intrigued cognitive neuroscientists, giving rise to a substantial amount of work in the field of cognitive neuroscience of music.
Many researchers believe that music and language are deeply connected in the brain. However, whether music and language processing rely on exactly the same neural resources is an important and fascinating area of inquiry in the neuroscience of music.
Conventional wisdom says that in order to become very good at a demanding task such as playing a musical instrument, you have to start young. Indeed, several neuroimaging studies have reported that training-related changes in brain structure are most pronounced in musicians who have started early. However, is it the age at which you start learning this skill that matters, or only the fact that if you start practicing young, you spend more years practicing? Is there an optimum age when a child should start practicing an instrument to attain the biggest benefits?
Most of us also listen to music in order to experience emotions. The specific mechanisms through which music evokes emotions is a rich field of research, with a great number of unanswered questions. Why does sound talk to our emotional brain? Why do we perceive emotional information in musical features? Why do we feel the urge to move when hearing music?