Listening to, and remembering music may involve two different cognitive processes, according to a study. While earlier research noted that areas on the right side of the brain are mainly activated by music, less is known about how these regions are stimulated over time as tunes play.
Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University in the US, and Tsinghua University in China, studied the electrical activity in the brains of both male and female epilepsy patients, as the participants listened to popular music compositions such as Beethoven's "Fur Elise", and Richard Wagner's "Wedding March."
The study, published in the journal JNeurosci, noted that a network of overlapping brain regions was associated with the act of listening to the music, and replaying the melody in one's head.
The researchers found that musical information travelled in opposite directions during listening and mental replaying of music, with signals flowing from the sensory parts of the brain to frontal regions during listening, and from frontal to sensory portions during recall.
The results also highlight that it may be possible to tell from brain activity features if a subject was recalling music.
The authors, however, cautioned that studying the recall process needed to be studied under better-controlled paradigms, as in the current method it was not easy to tell when one began imagining music and when they stopped.