Music, brain and attention0
A child musically educated during their development, is more likely to live a life with music, but today neuroscience explains that the capacity to develop musical abilities is innate in humans throughout their entire lives. With age we maintain the possibility to learn to play music, and above all, the ability to listen to, and develop, our sensitivity to music and our aesthetic sense in terms of sound quality or performance.
Throughout life we can benefit from the extraordinary influence that music has on our brains, because musical activity immediately stimulates the neuroplasticity of the brain. “Today it is very easy to recognise from images of the brain morphological differences due to musical activity. We know the brain reinforces or makes new neural connections not only with the actual practice of music, but also with the imagined, as demonstrated by Alvaro Pascual-Leone, at the Harvard University (Oliver Sachs, Musicophilia)”.
Exercising the brain with attention to practising on diferent elements of a musical piece, has increasing benefits which have been studied in children who play an instrument. Not everyone has the abilities of a professional musician, or the time required to practise an instrument, but everyone can enjoy the benefits of the practice of mindfulness in sound planes, -instrumental or vocal-, a practice called Music Awareness Training.
Our brains, like any natural system, tend to save energy by operating in an automatic mode. This is necessary for all those bodily functions which do not require conscious thought. However it can be a problem in the field of thoughts and emotions derived from the unconscious, because the automated produces uncontrolled behaviours. “In this state, our automatic mind ruminates endlessly, kidnaps our attention, leaving us unconscious of the present moment, (Daniel Goleman, Focus)”.
The practice of Music Awareness Training, develops the ability of practising mindfulness to direct our lives consciously, without being constantly subjected to the thoughts and emotions. Brain activity, i.e. the mind, is immersed in the rhythm, melody and harmony, empathising respectively with the brainstem, the limbic centers and neocortex, causing the brain to enter a state of neuronal harmony. In this state, the neural circuits dedicated to attention are enhanced.
When we practice a deep musical immersion, Music Awareness Training becomes a powerful tool to silence the interior monologue, which normally does not cease even in the tranquility of a walk, or a sunset.
With this musical training we can strengthen our abilities related to self-awareness, self-control, concentration, reflection, etc. By doing so we expand our space, our freedom; for example, we are aware of relentless marketing, which leads us to want to buy thoughtlessly. Also we are aware of the internal impulses such as sex, food, safety or that push us to automatic behavour.
Ignacio Botella Ausina