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Music encourages brain to pay attention and make predictions

A research team from the Standford University School of Medicine has gained valuable insight into how the brain sorts out the chaotic world around it. The team showed that music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory.

I always enjoy listening to various types of music while I’m sitting at my desk, either through headphones or nice monitors. Now it seems I was just doing what was instinctual!

Music engages the brain over a period of time, a co-author of the study said, and the process of listening to music could be a way that the brain sharpens its ability to anticipate events and sustain attention.

According to the researchers, their findings expand on previous functional brain imaging studies of anticipation, which is at the heart of the musical experience. Even non-musicians are actively engaged, at least subconsciously, in tracking the ongoing development of a musical piece, and forming predictions about what will come next. Typically in music, when something will come next is known, because of the music’s underlying pulse or rhythm, but what will occur next is less known, they said.

This is why when you’re listening to music at a concert or club, you sometimes feel annoyed when the flow of music is not as your brain expected to be (very common when listening to some bad DJ’s!).

So if you have the luxury of listening to music at your office or desk, you might find yourself paying more attention than if listening to nothing!

Find out more at the original article on

Published in Music Science

One Comment

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