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Finish That Tune. Scientists Find Brain Pathways Involved In Remembering Familiar Music

Have you ever continued to sing along with a song even after you could no longer hear the music? Researchers in China recently discovered what happens in your brain when you’re doing that. 

When you’re listening to music or trying to remember a melody, certain brain areas that are related to relevant processes like music perception or imagination become active. Until recently, scientists didn’t know precisely at which points in time these different brain areas are activated. 

A common method to find active brain areas is Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI),  but that isn’t detailed enough to see rapid changes in activity. Now, a group of researchers at Tsinghua University, Beijing, found a more accurate way to measure brain activity changes over time, and noticed that listening to music and remembering music involve different processes in the same region of the brain. They published their findings this week in the Journal of Neuroscience.

To carry out this study, they approached volunteers among a group of epilepsy patients that were undergoing a procedure called electrocorticography, or ECoG. Nine of the ten participants were patients at Tsingua University Yuquan Hospital, where they were preparing to have their epilepsy surgically treated by removing the affected area in their brain. (The tenth patient was undergoing the same treatment at a different hospital.) Before their surgery, they were all monitored with ECoG to find the exact area that was causing their seizures. During this procedure they spent one to four weeks with electrodes in their brain. While they had

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