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Music and the mind

This is Science Today. Just what is it about music that can evoke such vivid memories? To find out, Petr Janata, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis' Center for Mind and Brain, mapped out the brain while subjects listened to music.

Janata:            One region that I was particularly interested in understanding in this context is a part of the brain known as the medial prefrontal cortex. It's the part of our brain right behind our foreheads that's important for helping maintain a sense of self.

Narrator:        Janata found that music serves as a powerful cue for this type of memory, including in Alzheimer's patients.

Janata:            By all indications, it seems to be a quality of life improvement for them when they are hearing one of these songs.  And so it would be really nice to establish the reasons behind that in a scientifically sound way, so that perhaps structured music therapy interventions would become part of the normal prescribed treatment for these individuals. 

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.