Scientists in Japan find that listening to groove music has a positive effect on the mental capacity of people who say such music makes them feel clear-headed.
Do you like to dance? Let the rhythm wash over you as you surrender to the beat? It turns out that dancing to musical rhythms isn’t just a feel-good activity – but it also enhances brain function.
Researchers from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, have carried out a study that suggests that music with a groove, known as groove music, can “significantly increase measures of executive function and associated brain activity in participants who are familiar with the music,” according to a news release.
Groove music can bring feelings of pleasure to the fore, enhancing behavioural arousal levels. Just like exercise, which has similar positive effects – exercise is also known to enhance executive function.
The researchers hypothesised that groove music could also enhance executive function. Up until now, no studies had been carried out to analyse the effect of groove music on executive function or brain activity in regions associated with executive function, “such as the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (l-DLPFC).”
"Groove rhythms elicit groove sensations and positive affective responses. However, whether they influence executive function is unknown," says lead author of the study Professor Hideaki Soya.
"Accordingly, in the present study, we conducted brain imaging to evaluate corresponding changes in executive function, and measured individual psychological responses to groove music."
The researchers write that they had 51 participants who were divided into two groups: either they listened to a groove rhythm (GR) for three minutes, or a white-noise metronome for three minutes.
Before and after listening, the subjects performed the Stroop task, in which colour names are presented in colours not matching the text (for example, the word “red” written in blue ink) and participants are asked to name the colour of the text. While they were occupied with the Stroop task, they were monitored for left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (l-DLPFC) activity with functional near-infrared spectroscopy.
This allowed the researchers to examine inhibitory executive function before and after listening to music. The researchers also carried out a survey about the subjective experience of listening to GR.
"The results were surprising," explains Professor Soya. "We found that groove rhythm enhanced executive function and activity in the l-DLPFC only in participants who reported that the music elicited a strong groove sensation and the sensation of being clear-headed."
The researchers point out that their results indicate groove rhythm enhanced executive function and l-DLPFC activity in participants who felt a greater groove sensation and a more clear-headed feeling after listening to groove rhythm.
They say these psychological responses predict the impact of groove rhythm on executive function and l-DLPFC activity.
"Our findings indicate that individual differences in psychological responses to groove music modulate the corresponding effects on executive function,” says Professor Soya. “As such, the effects of groove rhythm on human cognitive performance may be influenced by familiarity or beat processing ability."
Enhancing executive function could benefit people in many ways. For example, it could prevent dementia in elderly people, or help employees enhance their performance. What’s more, the positive effects of groove rhythm on executive function “could include the effects of positive emotions and of rhythmic synchronisation”.
This recent study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, could help to explain the numerous benefits of dancing, or any form of exercise set to music. “Further research is needed to develop applications for this new information,” the news release concludes.