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May 09, 2014 10:00 AM EDT

Music Boosts Blood Flow in Brain, Study

Music increases blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain, according to a University of Liverpool study. The finding indicates that the areas responsible for music and language share common brain pathways.

For the study, researchers from the University's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society conducted two experiments and observed brain activities in musicians and non-musicians.

In the first experiment, the brain activity of 14 musicians and 9 non-musicians were observed while they participated in tasks related to music and word generation. The researchers found that brain activity was similar in both tasks for musicians when compared to non-musicians.

In the second experiment, non-musicians participated in tasks related to word generation and music perception before and after a brief musical training. They found that brain activity before the training did not display any correlating patterns. However, the brain activities showed similarities and positively affected blood flow pathway in the brain after the training session.

"The areas of our brain that process music and language are thought to be shared and previous research has suggested that musical training can lead to the increased use of the left hemisphere of the brain," Researcher Amy Spray said in a press release. "It was fascinating to see that the similarities in blood flow signatures could be brought about after just half an hour of simple musical training,"

"This suggests that the correlated brain patterns were the result of using areas thought to be involved in language processing. Therefore we can assume that musical training results in a rapid change in the cognitive mechansims utilised for music perception and these shared mechanisms are usually employed for language," Liverpool Psychologist, Dr Georg Mayer, said.

Listening to music helps relieve stress, anxiety and depression. The calming power of music has a relaxing effect on the mind and body. It also has a beneficial effect on physiological functions like slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing levels of stress hormones.

A recent University of Barcelona study found that not everybody turns to music for pleasure. Researchers described the new condition as musical anhedonia - the inability to experience pleasure from music.

"The identification of these individuals could be very important to understanding the neural basis of music-that is, to understand how a set of notes [is] translated into emotions," Researchers Josep Marco-Pallarés said in a press release.

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