Medical Mysteries of Music

Published on October 11th, 2017 | by Alan Cross

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Neuroscientists Say Metal Alters Brain Activity–And Not in a Good Way

A new paper on the brains of heavy metal fans that says that this music fosters “disorders of behavioral and emotional cognition” is (as you might guess) getting hammered after it was published on PubPeer a couple of weeks ago.

The study, called “Altered resting-state functional connectivity of default-mode network and sensorimotor network in heavy metal music lovers,” looked at fMRI scans of 40 metal fans vs. those of 31 classical music lovers. Everyone involved was asked to relax, keep their eyes closed, stay awake and avoid thinking about anything.

The resulting imaging suggested that an reaa of the brain called the PreCG is more active in metal fans: “PreCG is mainly responsible for the movement of the tongue. Compared with classical fans, metal fans are more willing to sing and the movement of the tongue will change, which may affect the PreCG.” That explains Gene Simmons, then.

At the same time, another area called the SFGmed, showed decreased activity in metal fans. That area deals with cognition–which also might explain Gene Simmons, too. Since classical music fans didn’t show this decreased activity, then that means…well, something.

This is where we get into disputes regarding how researchers interpreted their findings. Discovery Magazine says “This approach to interpreting fMRI results is very common, but it’s essentially just hot air: post hoc, unfalsifiable, circular reasoning. Whatever the fMRI results happened to be, it would be possible to come up with a functional ‘explanation’. And if your theory is vague enough to explain anything, it really explains nothing.”

If you’re up for a good fight on the finer points of neuroscience, go here.




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker.

In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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