Health: Understanding Language
Researchers are getting a unique look inside the brain that could someday lead to exciting new treatments for problems with language. Medical reporter Stephanie Stahl reports new research from the National Institutes of Health peered into the brains of musicians and found artistic improvisation could unlock a secret of science. Bill Charlap is freely able to improvise and create music on the fly while playing jazz.
“The goal of the jazz improviser is to dispense with thinking as much as possible,” he said.
Researchers found a way to show what was going on inside a jazz muscian’s brain. Brain scans were taken while they played a keyboard inside an MRI. On the scans red and yellow represent increased brain activity, blue symbolized decreased activity. “When subjects improvise, we see these changes,” said Dr. Allen Braun of the National Institutes of Health. Areas associated with self monitoring and inhibition turn off while self expression turns on. Doctors say it’s similar to what happens to the brain during dreams.
It’s hoped this new window into creativity will provide new clues into the brain’s wiring. “This may help us understand some of the ways music and language and some of these other systems interact,” Dr. Braun said. Researchers believe the findings could one day lead to new treatments for stuttering and even help stroke victims regain speech. The research was done at the language section of NIH where they are trying to understand how and why certain areas of the brain become more active and eventually develop new treatments.