Interesting news item in Money Plans, of all places. Researchers at Dartmouth College have been playing around, seeing which parts of the brain are used when people listen to music. They monitored brain activity as people listened to music, and then checked which parts of the brain were used to fill in the gaps when they blanked out extracts. The conclusion is that “lyrics might be the focus of the memory”.
In a study titled “Sound of silence activates auditory cortex” published in the March 10, 2005 issue of Nature, the Dartmouth team found that if people are listening to music that is familiar, they mentally call upon auditory imagery, or memories, to fill in the gaps if the music cuts out. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity, the researchers found that study participants could mentally fill in the blanks if a familiar song was missing short snippets.
“It’s fascinating that although the ear isn’t actually hearing the song, the brain is perceptually hearing it,” says coauthor William Kelley, Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth.