MRI research examines opera singer to see how music can heal

The hills are alive with the sound of music, as the song goes—and so is your brain, according to new neuroimaging research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  

According to a recent article from the Washington Post, the NIH is beginning to explore how the brain processes music, partially due to an increase in using music in patient care programs and facilities.

“The brain is able to compensate for other deficits sometimes by using music to communicate,” said NIH Director and geneticist Francis Collins, MD, PhD. According to the article, to turn that ability into a successful therapy, “it would be a really good thing to know which parts of the brain are still intact to be called into action, to know the circuits well enough to know the backup plan,” Collins added. 

Collins and his NIH colleagues have already began conducting studies involving an MRI machine and renowned opera singer Renee Fleming to better understand how the brain reacts to creating and listening to music. While NIH researchers observerd her in an MRI machine, Fleming recited song lyrics, sang them and imagined herself singing them while her brain patterns were analyzed.  

“We’re trying to understand the brain not just so we can address mental disorders or diseases or injuries, but also so we can understand what happens when a brain’s working right and what happens when it’s performing at a really high level,” said NIH researcher David Jangraw, PhD.  

Read more at the Washington Post: