Wednesday, March 5, 2008

more about brains...

Just read in today's USA Today that scientists recently scanned musicians' brains and have located the region that lights up when they improvise. It's the medial prefrontal cortex. Turns out this is the same area we all use when we're talking about ourselves (i.e. describing who we are and what interests us). Charles Limb, one of the researchers who is also a jazz saxophonist, thinks this makes perfect sense. He said, "Because the person is spontaneously composing, they really are revealing themselves musically. It's like your own musical autobiography."

And... at the same time the medial prefrontal cortex lights up in the improvising musician, the portion of the brain linked to careful planning and self-censoring (the ol' dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) turns off. Interesting stuff.

I'd like to go on record as saying Offspring #2 (who plays jazz trumpet) has a darn fine medial prefrontal cortex.

7 comments:

Presbyterian Gal said...

Makes the writer of "Close Encounters" ahead of his time with the five tones they use to communicate.

Barbara B. said...

Now I've got THAT tune going through my head...

Diane said...

me, too!

and this is fascinating (my husband plays jazz, too)

David said...

That's cool, it really does make sense. Mr. Swecker (high school band director) would always talk to me in class about soloing, and he would stop me sometimes and say that I needed to "tell a story". He meant express my feelings etc. And I would concentrate a lot harder and I could definitely tell an improvement.

Thanks for the compliment, you'll hear me exercise that part of my brain soon :)

Barbara said...

david, that's interesting about Sweck's advice to "tell a story"...

looking forward to seeing your medial prefrontal cortex in action! :)

dust bunny said...

Offspring #2 is the jazzman. :)

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

wow! let me just say life right now is one big improv... how cool!