Your Brain on Improv: Science Chasing the Art of Music(ality)

For those of you interested in musicality and improvisation (hopefully everyone!), you should check out a video on TED by Charles Limb called Your Brain on Improv. Awesome stuff. I ended up writing an article on it, so for those who want to read more I've copied and pasted the first part of it that summarizes and links to the study below.


I recently came across a great talk on TED by Charles Limb, M.D., a surgeon who has conducted some fascinating studies to find out what happens in the brain when we play music that is spontaneously generated (i.e. improvised) compared to when we play music that is over-learned (i.e., memorized).

The studies include jazz pianists improvising on a scale, jazz pianists improvising with each other (also known as “trading fours"), and rappers free-styling. The resulting brain scans that analyze blood flow as an indicator of brain activity revealed three things that happen during improvisation vs. recited music:

1. During improvisation, the self-monitoring parts of the brain deactivate while the self-expressive parts activate.

2. The parts of the brain that deal with expressive communication (you may have heard of Broca’s area before) are activated during improvisational interplay between musicians, supporting the language analogy often used in discussions about music (and dance) acquisition.

3. The brain experiences an overall increase in brain activity - including in visual and motor areas - during improvisation compared to the playing of over-learned music.

Here is the full video of Limb’s talk on TED, which I highly recommend you watch before delving further into his study…

Charles Limb on TED: Your Brain on Improv

I was very excited about Limb’s findings, so I read the full study on jazz improvisation and found it pretty accessible and easy to read. There are a few gems in there that won’t be found on the video...

You can read the rest of this article here>>

Dance Ads