‘Groovy’ music can boost brain performance, study finds

TSUKUBA, Japan — The right song can brighten up even the darkest day for many music fans, but new research from Japan reports that “groovy” music can even improve brain function! That’s right, dancing on your Saturday nights can just sharpen your thinking skills.

Scientists at the University of Tsukuba report that “music with a groove” can significantly increase measures of executive function and related brain activity. There is a catch though: you need to be familiar with the melody.

The study authors explain that groovy music typically elicits feelings of pleasure while simultaneously increasing “behavioral arousal levels”. Previous studies have shown that exercise can help sharpen cognition, and the research team speculated that dancing to groovy music might benefit the brain in the same way.

However, no studies had formally investigated the influence of groovy beats on brain function. So the researchers decided to do the work themselves. Specifically, they set out to examine the impact of dance music on brain activity in neural areas associated with executive function, such as the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (l-DLPFC).

“Groove rhythms elicit groove feelings and positive affective responses. However, it is not known if they influence executive function,” Professor Hideaki Soya, lead author of the study, said in an academic statement. “As a result, in the present study, we performed brain imaging to assess corresponding changes in executive function and measured individual psychological responses to groove music.”

How do groovy tunes affect the brain?

To observe and assess executive brain function before and after listening to music, the research team used a brain imaging technique called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), along with a word matching test of color. Participants also completed surveys examining their subjective experiences while listening to the groovy tunes.

“The results were surprising,” reports Professor Soya. “We found that groove rhythm improved executive function and activity in the l-DLPFC only in participants who reported that music elicited a strong groove feeling and a clear-headed feeling.”

These psychological responses to groove rhythms may even predict changes in executive function and l-DLPFC activity.

“Our results indicate that individual differences in psychological responses to groove music modulate corresponding effects on executive function. As such, the effects of groove rhythm on human cognitive performance may be mediated by familiarity or ability beat processing,” concludes Prof. Soya.

These results, although largely preliminary, have the potential to benefit countless people. From the retiree looking to stay mentally alert and stave off dementia, to workers and students hoping to improve their performance, throwing in a few catchy tunes can make a difference.

The study authors add that when we dance to upbeat music, it usually results in both positive mood and rhythmic synchronization. These two factors may partly explain the cognitive improvement observed in the subjects.

The findings appear in Scientific reports.

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