New music also rewards the spine and skin

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There’s been some interesting news from the Rotman Research Institute in Canada this week with tantalising implications for how we might design general health related cognitive interventions – and specific interventions in the health of the skin and spine. It involves a new tranche of research into the effects of new music on the brain. The results are intriguing.

fMRI-spine-joyAfter comments from around a quarter of participants in the original sample group to the effect that some music also caused tingling in the spine and goosebumps on the skin (even when bending over to make the experience harder to enjoy – see left) researchers delved further to find a common link: ‘imaginative, future oriented ideation’. The extra-responders were listening with deeper cognitive function, relating the new music with greater intensity to the trajectory of their personal narratives or lives. Further testing is now planned to see if the reward centre in the brains of these participants has unusually high connectivity with regions of the brain governing ontological awareness and strategy.

However it’s not clear how the planning and reward centres might combine to affect the spine and skin. Both dermal and spinal effects occur at the same time as brain response, pointing, superficially, to no causal chain in operation. One possible explanation for the goosebumping they suggest – which is where implications for policy interventions start to tantalise – is that the skin may be responding to soundwaves in a manner much more sensitively than previously thought: in the same way skin derives a nutritional reward from sunlight, it may receive a similarly health-promoting ‘exercise reward’ (the goosebumping movement) from soundwaves. There are no viable theories as yet for the spine response. Matters are even further complicated by the fact that two participants reacted with toenail whitening.

We’ll keep you posted.

toenail joy

Toenails rewarded by new music

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