KV 265's Music and the Brain Program

Neelum T. Aggarwal, MD | KV 265 | 1 Oct 2012

As I listened to KV265’s presentation of “Music and the Brain” performed at the Neurosurgical Society of America meeting, and viewed the images on the screen, I couldn't help but wonder, “What does the rest of the audience think about what they are seeing and hearing?” “Are they wondering if the pattern of brain waves seen on the screen is happening in their own brains?” “Are their brains 'lighting' up in the same or different areas than that of the musicians who are playing the music?”

As a neurologist, I typically think about these types of questions when I attend fascinating performances such as the one I saw by Paula Bressman and Rachel Miller (of harp duo Beyond Pluck). I am always amazed by the brain, its function, and how visually we can see what happens in the brain when music is listened to or being actively played. I hope that seeing the brain waves and the brain's response to music being played and heard, makes you realize how “active” your brain is even in a situation where you feel you are being a passive listener. I hope that after you saw how the various lobes of the brain —temporal, frontal, and occipital— lit up with different colors (indicating neural activity) gives you an idea of how many different areas of the brain are "recruited" through the act of "passive listening". The brain is an active organ and through the activity of inter-connected networks— sound waves, auditory nerves, brain regions— the brain becomes totally engaged in the art of creativity and musical performance.

We, at KV 265, hope that you are just as amazed at what you have seen as we are. With the performance of the Bach Toccata and Fugue in D minor performed by Beyond Pluck and a beautiful film using brain imaging created by Dr. José Francisco Salgado, KV 265 proudly announces its “Music and the Brain” program.

MRI scan of harpist listening to Bach

Understanding the brain is one of the most challenging frontiers of medical sciences. It is the most complex system on earth and it is at the center of what makes us different from other animals. Understanding the brain is crucial to understanding, not only how we communicate, think, reason, but understanding creativity, innovation, and finally how the brain leads to overall good health. KV 265 has been working with the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and the Center for Advanced Molecular Imaging (CAMI) to seek to bring together world-class researchers and musicians to investigate and harness the power of music on the brain, and to discuss ways in which scientists and musicians can work together to help early childhood development, and cognitive and aging disorders. The project further seeks to educate the general public and school children about the wonders of the brain, and the exciting research being done in the neuroscience.

To complement our “Music and the Mind“ program, Neuro Notes will discuss and highlight features of science and medical interest that is associated with creativity, music, and the brain. Through my monthly posts, I will attempt to engage you the reader, to make “neural connections” between Science, Medicine, and Music.


"Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach. A short film presented at the Executive Meeting of the Neurosurgical Society of America in Chicago, Illinois on 15 September 2012.

Edited by José Francisco Salgado with Paula E. Bressman
Photography by José Francisco Salgado, PhD
EEG by Elizabeth E. Gerard, MD
EEG processing by Mark L. Scheuer, MD at Persyst
MRI by Todd B. Parish, PhD
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performed by Beyond Pluck (Paula E. Bressman and Rachel R. Miller)
Executive Producers: Anne Barlow and J. F. Salgado, KV 265

© 2012 KV 265