Prof. Dr. med. Rosch / Prof. Dr. med. Koeditz • Music & Brain Medical Perspective
Let us first look at the point of emotional retardation.
In brain scans of orphans, who had hardly any emotional care, Harry Chugani of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan documented that their emotional brain systems were much less active than those of children who experienced normal emotional care. Their behaviour was, to a great degree, emotionally neutral. They developed hardly any fear, but also hardly any love.
A mother feels love for her child. Then the sound of her voice and her look will become full of love as she takes her child in her arms and caresses it.
These signals of love are received by the child via its sense organs, which direct them to the world of emotion. Arrived their, they initiate a wave of love as answer, which finds its expression through the same signal paths and comes back to the mother.
In this exchange or training those nerve connections are built and consolidated, which enable the experience and expression of love. For a child who is given only a few experiences of love, security, joy, tenderness, it is normally much harder to develop these qualities in his later life than for a child whose world of emotion is regularly nourished with these qualities of the heart; because the nerve connections which represent these qualities have not been stimulated and consolidated through the sense organs as intensively.
Many neuroscientists assume today that in this way all abilities of feeling, understanding and intellect receive their neurological stimulation and consolidation. The outer stimulation of these qualities is achieved through the sense organs. Their impulses co-decide which networks in the brain will be consolidated and expanded through intensive use (gain more importance) and which ones will receive a rather small importance or will be even given up completely.
This finding of neuroscience is of utmost importance for education, because, automatically the question arises concerning the quality of what travels through the sense organs to the brain and takes a share in shaping its architecture. How important this question is becomes very clear, when one of these sense organs is not working correctly, as for instance the ear.
Let us take as an example the ability to abstract. An abstract term is one we cannot taste, or smell, or see and/or touch, but one can describe it with words. This means, the ear is responsible for an outer stimulation of the ability to abstract and of its related nerve connections in the brain.
And the research with hearing impaired children states (17, 18): with the hearing capacity via the ear substantially reduced then, as a rule, the concerned person shows a strong deficit in the ability to abstract.
In this context, the investigations gain importance which indicate that, through listening to complex harmonious music,
very different cognitive performances improve (1, 19, 20) such as memory, learning ability, ability to abstract, mathematical abilities, analytical abilities, logic and intelligence in diverse forms.
Since music stimulates the cognitive and emotional brain systems, these get a kind of training by listening to music. Therefore, for the music listener, an important question arises. Of what quality, how demanding is the music piece for the sphere of understanding; and which quality of emotion does it stimulate?
Is it structured in a complex way, of natural harmonic logic, rich in variations and does it stimulate life-promoting qualities of emotion? Then such a music will also stimulate the corresponding brain systems.
Our sense organs comprehend our whole range of experience. This means, to a certain degree, we become what we hear, touch, see, smell and taste.
Here lies invaluable potential but, at the same time music has great danger for education. According to its cognitive and emotional quality it takes influence on the architecture and activity of the brain – particularly if it is heard regularly.
Enough investigations indicate (1, 27) that music, if listened to often, that is primitive in structure, chaotic and emotionally depressive / aggressive produces emotional and social behaviour, that is negative up to an increased readiness for violence and criminal behaviour.
But, if music is cognitively manifold and highly integrated and emotionally life supporting, the listener unfolds increasingly more intelligence, inner happiness and social harmony (5).