Reggaeton causes more brain activity than listening to classical or folklore, according to a study

Compared to classical music, folklore, and electronics, reggaeton causes greater activation in the brain regions responsible for processing not only sounds but also movement, according to a study carried out by Canarian researchers on brain activity that produces listening to different musical styles.

The neuroscience of music has recently attracted significant attention, but the effect of music style on the activation of the auditory-motor brain regions has not yet been explored, Jesús Martín-Fernández, the neurosurgeon at the Hospital Universitario Nuestra, explains in an interview with EFE. Señora de la Candelaria in Santa Cruz de Tenerife (Canary Islands), author of a doctoral thesis that has led to the study.

The project arose when he commented to Julio Plata, who was also a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist, that he wanted to do his doctoral thesis, and he who later directed it suggested how interesting it would be to unite my passions: the brain and music.

For the research, 28 people without previous musical training were selected, with varied musical tastes and an average of 26 years.

The study was carried out at the IMETISA research center, attached to the Hospital Universitario de Canarias, where tests were first carried out to analyze musical abilities with an ear test, on the one hand, the ability to discriminate melodies and on the other, rhythmic phrases.

Subsequently, a functional magnetic resonance was performed while the participants listened to various musical styles from which the lyrics were eliminated.

Some of the musical clips that were used were in reggaeton "Shaky" by Daddy Yankee and "Ginza" by J Balvin; in electronics "Passion" by Alberto Feria and "L'amour Toujours" by Dzeko, in classical the concert in E minor by Vivaldi and the minuet of the airs in D by Luis Cobiella, and in folklore folías and malagueñas from the Canary Islands.

The researchers analyzed, on the one hand, anatomically the brain of each participant and then the BOLD signal, which consists of seeing which areas of the brain recruit oxygen (which is what happens when they are activated), and through software, they were represented with different colors according to more or less active.

The reason why the lyrics were removed from the music clips of each style is "because we wanted to study the processing of music in the purest possible way, and language could (by using other neural pathways) show us brain activation that is not specific to music. "

And it was reggaeton that showed greater activation in the brain regions responsible for processing sounds (auditory areas) and processing movement (motor areas), differences that were greater when compared to classical music.

The electronics also showed greater activation of the motor regions, but significantly lower compared to reggaeton and what struck us was the activation of a primitive brain region: the basal ganglia.

They are groups of neurons that are in deep areas of the brain and that are responsible for modulating posture, starting and ending a movement as well as being involved in the reward or pleasure system, the researcher says.

In these basal ganglia is the origin of some degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's among others, in which there is a progressive degeneration of some of them that causes a decrease in dopamine (a substance involved in the movement, pleasure ...) and that in the last instance produces, among others, alteration of the movement.

The greater activation caused by reggaeton implies that there are more auditory and motor brain regions that are activated and therefore there is more machinery working to process the music.

The significant activation in the areas of the brain responsible for movement could be due to the generation of an internal pulse within us when trying to guess when the next pulse comes. It is as if reggaeton, with that peculiar and repetitive rhythm, prepares us for movement, to dance just by listening to it.

Jesús Martín-Fernández emphasizes that reggaeton does not always use more basic chords than other styles such as electronics, but it does use them in a predictable way as well as having a rhythm that does not vary throughout the song.

Classical music, on the other hand, is much more complex, much more tonal, melodic, and with a much less marked and therefore less predictable rhythm variety.

With these results, a door is opened to investigate more, both about music and its global processing in the brain and to see how this same experiment affects patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's indicates the researcher, who highlights that this study is the first in the scientific literature that compares reggaeton and classical music and therefore we have to wait to continue the investigation.

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