While going through the expanses of my iPod I will often stumble upon a song that will trigger a memory from years ago in vivid detail and leave me wondering why music couldn't trigger answers to test questions when I start singing it in my head. With music possessing such a powerful ability, it made me wonder how exactly this process occurs within the brain and whether or not a specific part had control over this odd "musical memory".
In class the topic of brain stimulation causing projections of vivid images came up. These projections have not been proven to be more than fantasies made up by the brain, which leaves them essentially useless in any practical sense. Music, on the other hand, has been proven to help the regaining of memory by those affected by brain injuries that inhibit recollection of memories. Often researchers have found that a simple verse from a familiar song will cause subjects to remember things that they previously thought they would never remember again. It is also used with those who have had damage to the part of brain that allows speech, by playing a melody and allowing victims to fill in the verses. With such an amazing ability to rehabilitate I immediately expected there to be some area of the brain completely dedicated to music. I was wrong, for just as memory does not seem to have one specific area of the brain it resides in, neither does music.
With music being something exclusive to humans, it would make sense that we would have some part of the brain that was unique to our species. It would also explain how some people, such as those affected by autism, sometimes have an unnatural talent for music while others are musically inept. Yet with this complex process requiring multiple areas of the brain and still not being completely understood, testing the applications of music and its rehabilitation powers still fall into the hands of those conducting the experiments.
The article can be found here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,46157,00.html