Our brain reacts strongly to electronic music

Our brain reacts strongly to electronic music

House, trance, acid, dubstep, hard techno… Music lovers appreciate electronic music for its heady rhythms, which plunge them into a state of trance. Spanish researchers looked into this phenomenon to discover its neurological foundations.

To do this, Raquel Aparicio-Terrés and her colleagues carried out an experiment involving around twenty volunteers aged 18 to 22. They played them six short clips of electronic music, including “Endless Horizons” by Dhamika, “Mind Expander” by Audiomatic and “Audioslave” by Vertex. The selected songs had different tempos (1.65 hertz, 2.25 Hz or 2.85 Hz).

The scientists used electroencephalography to record the electrical brain activity of study participants throughout the experiment, from electrodes placed on their scalp.

At the same time, the volunteers were asked to carry out cognitive tasks measuring their concentration and reactivity. They also had to answer questionnaires assessing the impact of each of the six sound extracts on their state of consciousness. As a reminder, the state of consciousness refers to the overall mental state of an individual, that is to say their level of vigilance, attention, perception and interaction with their environment.

The researchers noticed that the study participants’ brain activity seemed to synchronize with the rhythms they heard. In other words, they experienced what we call, in biomusicology, “training”. This notion refers to the fact that biological rhythms, such as heartbeats or brain waves, tend to correspond with music. So, if we listen to very rhythmic songs, our body follows the movement by accelerating our heart rate. Softer songs will have the opposite effect on our body.

Aparicio Terrés and his colleagues found that the effects of “entrainment” were particularly pronounced when the volunteers listened to the sound clip with a tempo of 1.65 Hz. The volunteers reported feeling “a feeling of unity” while listening this piece of electronic music. Generally speaking, researchers believe that electronic music could alter our state of consciousness, by modifying our reaction time and our sense of unity.

But they emphasize in their article, published on the pre-publications site bioRxiv, that this phenomenon must be the subject of a more in-depth examination to understand the links between “training, reaction time, and personality traits and/or individual cognitive characteristics. A better understanding of these mechanisms could notably improve the care of patients suffering from disorders of consciousness.

The benefits of music on our brain

Slide: The benefits of music on our brain