Motor Music

By Scott LaFee

March 26, 2014 4 min read

You know how you'll hear a song and struggle to remember who sang it? Or worse yet, you're trying to remember a song, but the melody remains just slightly beyond your recollected reach.

Turns out, your memory of music might be better if you did more than just listen to it. A Canadian study suggests that when people also engage the motor neurons of their brain — the cells that control muscle movement — while listening to a song (or conversation for that matter), they are more apt to remember it later.

"The memory benefit that comes from performing a melody rather than just listening to it, or saying a word out loud rather than just hearing or reading it, is known as the 'production effect' on memory," explained Caroline Palmer at McGill University.

"Scientists have debated whether the production effect is due to motor memories, such as knowing the feel of a particular sequence of finger movements on piano keys, or simply due to strengthened auditory memories, such as knowing how the melody tones should sound."

Palmer's study suggests the latter. She and colleagues asked different groups of pianists to either listen to or to play unfamiliar, simple melodies. Then, hooked up to scanners, all of the pianists heard the melodies played back, some now containing wrong notes.

The pianists who had earlier played the melodies more often detected the errant notes, indicating they better remembered the music.

"This paper helps us understand 'experiential learning' or 'learning by doing,'" said study co-author Brian Mathias, "and offers pedagogical and clinical implications." For example, it could influence teaching and educational strategies in school or improve therapies for patients battling age-related dementia.

BODY OF KNOWLEDGE

The average yawn lasts six seconds.

LIFE IN BIG MACS

One hour of making beds burns 136 calories (based on a 150-pound person), or the equivalent of 0.2 Big Macs. That's a lot beds, but not much of a burger.

STORIES FOR THE WAITING ROOM

Apparently, being the most-satisfied with your health doesn't mean you're also the healthiest. In a University of California, Davis paper, researchers surveyed almost 52,000 adults and found that the most satisfied patients were those who spent the most on health care and on prescription drugs.

But they were also 12 percent more likely to be admitted to the hospital and more likely to die earlier than other less-satisfied patients.

PHOBIA OF THE WEEK

Anthophobia — fear of flowers

NEVER SAY DIET

The Major League Eating speed-eating record for haggis is three pounds in eight minutes, held by Eric Livingston. Note: This feat is heroic, if also stupid. Haggis is a pudding consisting of sheep's heart, liver and lungs, mixed with oatmeal, onions, suet and spices, and traditionally cooked in the animal's stomach.

OBSERVATION

"You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred." — Woody Allen

LAST WORDS

"Such is life." — Irish Australian bushranger Ned Kelly (1854-1880), who was variously regarded as a murderous robber or Robin Hood-like folk hero. Ultimately caught and convicted of murder, he was hanged.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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