Music perception and cognition: development, neural basis, and rehabilitative use of music

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci. 2013 Jul;4(4):441-451. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1237. Epub 2013 Mar 20.


Music is a highly versatile form of art and communication that has been an essential part of human society since its early days. Neuroimaging studies indicate that music is a powerful stimulus also for the human brain, engaging not just the auditory cortex but also a vast, bilateral network of temporal, frontal, parietal, cerebellar, and limbic brain areas that govern auditory perception, syntactic and semantic processing, attention and memory, emotion and mood control, and motor skills. Studies of amusia, a severe form of musical impairment, highlight the right temporal and frontal cortices as the core neural substrates for adequate perception and production of music. Many of the basic auditory and musical skills, such as pitch and timbre perception, start developing already in utero, and babies are born with a natural preference for music and singing. Music has many important roles and functions throughout life, ranging from emotional self-regulation, mood enhancement, and identity formation to promoting the development of verbal, motor, cognitive, and social skills and maintaining their healthy functioning in old age. Music is also used clinically as a part of treatment in many illnesses, which involve affective, attention, memory, communication, or motor deficits. Although more research is still needed, current evidence suggests that music-based rehabilitation can be effective in many developmental, psychiatric, and neurological disorders, such as autism, depression, schizophrenia, and stroke, as well as in many chronic somatic illnesses that cause pain and anxiety. WIREs Cogn Sci 2013, 4:441-451. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1237 The authors have declared no conflicts of interest for this article. For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.