Singing-specific neurons discovered


  • Singing is different from speech and instrumental music, so different neurons are involved.
  • Singing melodies are better remembered by humans than instruments.

For many years, music has been used by physicians for therapeutic purposes, so this means that the tune produces an effect on our nervous system. But, according to a new study published in the journal current biology, another art form, which is very close, can also have a different effect on our brain: singing. In the course of their work, the researchers wanted to identify neurons that were specifically related to singing, as they had already identified, in a previous study, those that responded to music in general.

Two methods combined to identify neurons

To go further, the researchers combined the two methods, this time. First, which makes it possible to identify neuronal populations from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data. He had already used it in his first study. These fMRIs make it possible to see the response of hundreds of thousands or even millions of neurons because they use a very small unit of measurement. They then combined this with high-resolution data obtained by electrocorticography (ECOG). “This approach combining ECOG and fMRI is an important methodological advance. Combining the improved resolution of ECOG with data from fMRI allows for better localization of global responses” in the brain, Josh McDermott, one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. A total of 15 patients took part in this clinical trial. The researchers analyzed the data and were thus able to identify the neurons that responded specifically to song.

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Music and singing neurons very close

Singing-specific neurons are located in the auditory cortex at the top of the temporal lobe, near regions selective for language and music. “There’s a population of neurons that respond to singing and another that responds more broadly to music. On the fMRI scale, they’re so close you can’t recognize them, but on the ECOG’s Plus, we get extra resolution, and that’s what We Think allowed us to tell them apart.”One of the authors, Sam Norman-Hagnere, explained.

In detail, the researchers found that song-related information must first be processed by primary auditory regions and then sent to those sensitive to the song. This path therefore involves a certain amount of time to reach the correct processing areas of the brain, which is not the case with speech. In the future, the scientists plan to continue their research, specifically to determine whether babies have specific areas for music and singing.

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