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Music Lives in Another Part of the Brain

“I think it’s true of all stammerers. They can’t stammer when they sing.” Carly Simon

As a child, Carly Simon suffered from stuttering, and found that singing helped. She commented, “There’s something about the mind connecting differently to the vocal cords when you apply either rhythm or melody.”

In his book “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” neurologist Oliver Sacks describes many of the personal and mental aspects of making and appreciating music, and writes about cases of autistic children “who could make no contact except nonverbally, with music.” [From my post Oliver Sacks on music and the brain.]

Glen Campbell, 75, recently made public the fact he has Alzheimer’s disease. But next year he plans to perform in his Goodbye Tour in various countries, for as long as two years if his health allows it.

In a recent newspaper article about him, there is a reference that “the capacity for music tends to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease differently than other brain functions.”

Elaine Bearer, a professor of neuroscience at the University of New Mexico, who also does research at Caltech, says “It appears that words to a song get encoded in a different place in the brain than the words we use in speech, and it appears that people with Alzheimer’s actually preserve the music, and the words that go to music, long after much of the rest of the brain is not functioning well.”

Bearer is also a composer who studied with the French composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger. “She was very, very focused on the musician’s mind,” Bearer says. “To study with Boulanger meant that you learned to use those unconscious parts of your mind that respond to music, that dream of music, and you learn to bring them to the conscious state where you could take a pencil and write them down.”

Going through the training with Boulanger, Bearer says, “I can say through personal experience that music does not live in the same part of my brain as my science. So I can be doing a scientific experiment and composing a piece of music at the same time….”

[From Glen Campbell looks forward with gratitude, By Randy Lewis, Los Angeles Times August 28, 2011.]

By the way, many people have suffered with stuttering, including Emily Blunt, Harvey Keitel, Julia Roberts, Marilyn Monroe, John Updike, Lewis Carroll and many others. [From my post Stammering as an opportunity.]

Maybe even people who don’t stutter could take advantage of how the brain works in this way, for example gaining new perspectives on written words by singing them.

Music Lives in Another Part of the Brain

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2011). Music Lives in Another Part of the Brain. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2019, from


Last updated: 29 Aug 2011
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