Music is a tool that has accompanied our evolutionary journey and provided a sense of comfort and social connection for millennia. New research published today in the journal American psychologist provides a neuroscientific understanding of the social connection with a new brain map when playing music.
A team of social neuroscientists from Bar-Ilan University and the University of Chicago introduced a brain model that sheds light on the social functions and brain mechanisms that underlie the musical adaptations used for human connection. The model is unique because it focuses on what happens to the brain when people make it music together, more than when they listen to music individually.
The research was inspired by the creative efforts of people around the world to reproduce the creation of music together as they distance themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included people singing songs in unison from balcony to balcony, singing in groups on video conferencing platforms like Zoom and live concerts in the living room of Yo Yo Ma, Chris Martin of Coldplay and Norah Jones.
The team merged the latest advances in social neuroscience and in the field of music, including evolutionary theory. They summarized these advances and highlighted five key functions and mechanisms of the brain that contribute to social connection through music.
These are (1) empathy circuits, (2) oxytocin secretion, (3) reward and motivation, including dopamine release, (4) language structures, and (5) cortisol. These five functions and mechanisms involve at least 12 major brain regions and two pathways that are mapped. here.
Empathy helps us tune in to how other people think and feel, and can be improved through interpersonal musical coordination.
Oxytocin is sometimes called a “love hormone” because it contributes to our sense of feeling socially connected to others. It is segregated when people sing together, even when singing is improvised.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that produces a feeling of pleasure and is released during anticipation and musical expectation, and is critical to our sense of reward and motivation.
The structures of language in the brain participate in the musical dialogue back and forth (sometimes called “call” and “answer”).
Cortisol is a hormone that contributes to stress, but decreases in the brain when people sing together and when they listen to music together in a group.
The research provides the basis for an emerging field called “social neuroscience of music,” which is based on the previously established cognitive neuroscience of music, which focuses primarily on listening to music.
The authors say that a better understanding of the social neuroscience of music can play an important role in helping to improve social ties around the world, especially in conflicting cultures. They conclude that music is a powerful tool that can bring individuals together, promote empathy and communication, and heal social divisions. They say a better scientific understanding of how music provides brain-to-brain social connections helps highlight that music is not just entertainment, but is a basic feature of human existence with important social implications.
Dr. David Greenberg, who led the research, is a social neuroscientist, professional musician, and Zuckerman postdoctoral scholar at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. He says, “Music connects us to our humanity. Through social neuroscience, we can discover our sense of social connection not only is it subjective, but it has important roots brain mechanisms. Especially at a time when there is so much social division around the world, we need to find new ways to connect conflicting cultures. Music is one of those forms. We hope that our research will lead to more grassroots programs, such as the Divan West-Eastern Orchestra and the Jerusalem Youth Chorus, which bring people from different cultures together through music. “
Dr. Ilanit Gordon, associate professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the Social Neuroscience Laboratory at the Gonda Brain Multidisciplinary Research Center (Goldschmied) in Bar-Ilan, says, “Human sociality is rooted in our biological composition. We can connecting and interacting with others and, through scientific exploration of the neurobiological foundations of music, we can foster our understanding of the major problems of the social neurosciences. ”
Jean Decety, professor of psychology and psychiatry in the Irving B. Harris Service, and director of Child Neurosuite at the University of Chicago, says: strengthening cohesion and mutual trust between people by signaling shared values. It is quite fascinating to understand the neurobiological mechanisms of music. ”
David M. Greenberg et al, The social neuroscience of music: Understanding the social brain through human human., American psychologist (2021). DOI: 10.1037 / amp0000819
Citation: What happens in the brain when people make music together? (2021, June 10), retrieved June 10, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-brain-people-music.html
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