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Language & Music

March 10, 2010

Evidence from patients with brain damage suggests that music and language overlap in the brain.


Linking language and music. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

No matter what language you speak, the arrangement of words in a sentence means something. The same is true of music, which is why the same set of notes can create an infinite number of tunes. In recent years, scientists have found evidence that our brains process language and music in similar ways. Ani Patel of the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego looked at patients with Broca’s aphasia.

ANIRUDDH PATEL (The Neurosciences Institute, San Diego):
They have a difficulty with language processing, both producing sentences and the meaning of sentences based on their structure.

Patients with Broca’s aphasia also had trouble spotting off-key chords in simple tunes. And this wasn’t due to more basic pitch or memory problems. The findings suggest that we use some of the same parts of our brain to organize words or musical notes into coherent ideas. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.