Brain regions that process language are also involved in communicating through music. When jazz musicians are improvising, the areas of the brain activated include those associated with syntax and spoken language, a new brain imaging study finds.The study had jazz musicians ‘trading fours’: which is where musicians each improvise four bars of music (Donnay et al., 2014).
Typically, trading fours is like a conversation. Each player picks up the themes of the other and elaborates, changes or ‘replies’ in some way.
This suggests that trading fours is more than just a metaphorical conversation, it activates the same areas of the brain involved in building sentences.
A fascinating nuance of the study was that although areas associated with syntax were activated, the areas of the brain associated with themeaning of language showed lower activation.