We all know that music can heal, but neurological disorders? Short answer: possibly.

The Flow State

According to the Daily Mail, Cambridge University researchers have taken a closer look into the brain of rappers and found that their brains enter a rare “flow state.” This “flow state” occurs when a rapper freestyles (Logic?!) because it triggers the certain parts of the brain that are responsible for emotion, language, motivation, motor function, and motor processing. According to the researchers, stroke survivors who may have lost some ability to speak sometimes can sing, and music therapy can help in grooming the brain’s pathways to communicate. For Parkinson’s patients, on the other hand, some can walk better to the right beat.

Sound Health Initiative

This new found information allowed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve doctors’ understanding of how music can do more than just soothe patients. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins (who also doubles a guitarist, by the way) aims to figure out which parts of the brain are still in tact so they can use music to fill the ones that are no longer. “The brain is able to compensate for other deficits sometimes by using music to communicate,” Collins said.

Soprano Renee Fleming assisted Collins to start the Sound Health initiative. She spent two hours inside an MRI machine to help pinpoint what brain activity is ideal for singing. She began speaking the lyrics, sang them, and then imagined singing them. To their surprise, several brain regions had more activity during Fleming’s imaginative singing. These parts include the brain’s emotion center and areas that involve motion and vision. They theorize that “it took more mental effort to keep track of where she was in the song, and to maintain its emotion, without auditory feedback.”

With the NIH’s continuing research and different music therapy programs, this is a huge step for science and music, particularly hip-hop. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to some Biggie.

Featured image taken by Jonathan Piccolo

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