Des jeunes chantent dans un studio

The brain reacts specifically to singing and it is now proven!

Almost all human societies have practiced singing and the music. Certain animals such as birds, whales or bonobos also present musical behaviorsbut our musical cognition seems to be the most evolved within the animal kingdom. During a study, neuroscientists discovered which part of the brain react to singing.

This study allowed them to understand that the brain responds differently to singing, speaking and instrumental musicand that the singing owns its own neural signature. However, brain analysis of a living person is not easy. The researchers therefore decided to carry out these studies with people who had suffered from conditions requiring brain operations.

Electrocorticography to locate neurons

Of the researchers had the idea of ​​introducing electrodes into the brain cavity of some people for record electrical activity of their brains. This technique called electrocorticography (ECoG) allowed them to precisely locate the seat of neuronal activities specific to sounds.

Young people sing in a studio

Electrocorticography (ECoG) is the most effective method for study the activity of neurons. For example, it is much more accurate than electroencephalography (EEG) which gives only one approximation of neural activities. Only downside, the placement of electrodes inside a skull human is invasive and carries very significant health risks.

It took researchers several years to successfully collect data from epileptic patients who were already undergoing surgical procedures.

A neurodynamic signature specific to singing

Of the electrodes had to be laid for several days under the scalp of epileptic patients to monitor their neural activities in order to locate the seat of lesions source of their crises. The neuroscientists take advantage of this intervention to ask these same patients to participate in their studies.

They asked them to listen to 165 common sounds such as whispers, squeals, pops or buzzes. They must also have heard musical notes without vocalization, songs without instruments and instrumental music with song.

The researchers succeeded in highlighting a distinct population of neurons who responded specifically to the chant. This group of neurons did not react to the sounds of musical instruments nor to noises to speech.

They suggested that:

Singing is distinguished from speech by its melodic intonation contour and rhythmicity, and from instrumental music by vocal resonances and other structures specific to the voice.


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