January 28, 2020
Brain research shows that musicians’ training increases their sensitivity to the emotion in all sounds – a highly useful skill in personal, business, and academic relationships. Dr. Kraus finds that “sound processing is biologically intertwined with listening and language skills,” and says, “Probably the healthiest thing we can do for our brains is to make music.”
Our guest today is Dr. Nina Kraus, Professor of Communication Sciences, Neurobiology, and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University. She is a scientist, inventor, and amateur musician who uses hearing as a window into brain health. She uses the principles of neuroscience to improve human communication, and advocate for best practices in education, health, and social policy.
- According to Dr. Kraus’ research: “This generalization from music to everyday communications illustrates both that these auditory brain mechanisms have a profound potential for plasticity and that sound processing is biologically intertwined with listening and language skills.”
- “Probably the healthiest thing we can do for our brains is to make music.” – Dr. Nina Kraus
- Are musicians better at identifying emotional cues in others? The Musicians’ Brain blog post by Lois Svard featuring Dr. Kraus’ work
- Super-Hearing: The Secret Power of Learning an Instrument Brain World article by Christin Taylor
- In his book, “Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five,” John Medina, a molecular biologist, references Kraus & Strait’s work as evidence that it is possible to help our children learn to be more empathetic.
- According to Dr. Kraus’ research: “Sound is air in motion. We all know that sound moves our hair cells, but sound moves us in other ways too. Hearing is coupled with feeling…and… cognition is involved in hearing… Musicians provide an excellent model to study auditory learning because making music integrates hearing, thinking, and feeling. And of course, listening to and playing music trigger the limbic networks throughout the brain” (Trends Cogn 2015; Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2013;110[Suppl 2]:10430).
Dr. Kraus tells a story about playing a little music every day.
- Dr. Kraus encourages listeners to explore Northwestern’s Brainvolts Lab website. “The website is a labor of love; we update it almost daily. Please begin with our website tour (link on homepage). Check out the overview slideshow offered for each project. For a snapshot of our biological approach, see at the animated demonstration on our homepage.” [Direct link to Music Projects]
Dr. Kraus shares a video of herself improvising on the harmonica with local musicians playing for at a science conference dinner in Sweden.