Entries in Music (11)


Could the Music You Listen to Impact Your Driving Habits? 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Driving these days is distracting enough, what with smartphones tempting you to text and chat instead of keeping your eyes on the road.  That's why, to make sure you're driving safely, the music you blast while cruising should be the kind that calms you down, not the kind that revs you up, researchers say.

According to the British paper The Telegraph, a new study conducted by London Metropolitan University found that the safest songs to listen to while driving have a tempo of 60 to 80 beats per minute, around the same as a human heartbeat.   The number-one safest song for driving in the study was found to be Norah Jones' "Come Away with Me," but others in the top 10 include Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" and Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." Also appearing on the list were tunes by Coldplay, Radiohead, Justin Timberlake, Bon Iver and Jason Mraz.

Surprisingly, the study also found that drivers listening to classical music drove the most erratically.  Hip-hop, dance and heavy metal made people drive more aggressively, braking harder and accelerating faster.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Music Lessons Linked to Lasting Brain Benefits

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Music lessons early in life may have lasting benefits on the brain, new research suggests.

The study of 45 young adults found that those with at least one year of childhood musical training had enhanced neurological responses to sound, a trait tied to improved learning and listening abilities.

“There’s good evidence that playing a musical instrument can profoundly affect the nervous system, but most of the studies have looked at people who are still playing,” said study author Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern University. “This is the first study, to my knowledge, to look at the more typical scenario of people taking music lessons as kids.”

Using tiny electrodes, Kraus and colleagues measured the brain’s response to sound in Northwestern students with varying degrees of musical training -- from none at all to 11 years of lessons.  After controlling for IQ, they found people with at least one year of musical training were better at processing sound than those with no musical training.

“We know from previous studies that if you have a robust response to sound, you’re generally a better learner,” said Kraus.  “You’re better able to hear conversations in noisy places, your reading ability tends to be better and your auditory memory also seems to benefit.  Those skills are important.”

The small study, published Wednesday in the journal Neuroscience, suggests even a year’s worth of music lessons can have lasting effects on brain function.

“To me -- and this is just my scientific opinion based on converging evidence -- those are dollars well spent,” said Kraus.

How long do the effects last?  That’s the next study, Kraus said.

“Certainly the hypothesis to be tested now is whether these experiences in childhood continue to have a mark on the nervous system throughout people’s lives,” she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Alzheimer's Disease: Music Brings Patients 'Back to Life'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Henry Dryer sits slumped over the tray attached to his wheelchair.  He doesn't speak, and rarely moves, until a nursing home worker puts his headphones on.  Then Dryer's feet start to shuffle, his folded arms rock back and forth, and he sings out loud in perfect sync with his favorite songs.

"I feel a band of love, dreams," said Dryer, 92, who has dementia.  "It gives me the feeling of love, romance!"

Henry is one of seven patients profiled in the documentary Alive Inside, a heartwarming look at the power of music to help those in nursing homes.

"There are a million and a half people in nursing homes in this country," director Michael Rossato-Bennett told ABC News.  "When I saw what happened to Henry, whenever you see a human being awaken like that, it touches something deep inside you."

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting 5.4 million Americans.  The disease swiftly robs patients of their memories and other brain functions, forcing most to live out their final years in nursing homes.

Rossato-Bennett said he took on the documentary project to promote Music & Memory, a nonprofit organization that brings iPods with personalized music to dementia patients in nursing home care.

"When I end up in a nursing home, I'll want to have my music with me," said Dan Cohen, executive director of Music & Memory.  "There aren't many things in nursing homes that are personally meaningful activities.  Here's the one easy thing that has a significant impact."

Cohen said the personalized playlists, chosen by loved ones, make patients light up.

"They're more alert, more attentive, more cooperative, more engaged," he said.  "Even if they can't recognize loved ones and they've stopped speaking, they hear music and they come alive."

Alive Inside
premieres Wednesday, April 18 at the Rubin Museum in New York City.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Plastic Surgeon Under Investigation for 'Jewcan Sam' Music Video

Keith Brofsky/Thinkstock(MIAMI) -- A Miami-based plastic surgeon is under investigation after commissioning a song and music video that encourages plastic surgery for a character whose nose is described as a "beak like Jewcan Sam."

Dr. Michael Salzhauer, 40, funded the video "Jewcan Sam" to "connect" to a younger audience.

The creator of the song, a band known as The Groggers, describes itself as a "Jewish pop-punk band with a comic twist."

At the time of making the song, subtitled a "A Nose Job Love Song," the band's lead singer, L.E. Doug Staiman, jokingly asked whether the doctor offered a group rate on rhinoplasty.

"I told him, 'It's funny you're commissioning us to do this, because most of our band members have these massive, deformed noses,'" Staiman said. "And he generously offered nose jobs to the entire band. But I was the only one who went through with it."

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"Jewcan Sam" is a play on "Toucan Sam," the cartoon mascot for Froot Loops breakfast cereal with the protruding, multicolored beak.

The Anti-Defamation League, an organization committed to the fight against anti-Semitism, did not return requests for comment.

"The song is meant to be funny, not offensive," Salzhauer said.

But not everyone has found the take-away message so funny.

"This is just disturbing that a doctor would play into the frailties of the human condition," said Dr. Malcolm Roth, president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Salzhauer reportedly flew the band from Queens, N.Y., to Miami, where they shot the music video and Staiman underwent surgery at Salzhauer's practice, Bal Harbour Plastic Surgery. Staiman said he made the offer to the band because, in his professional opinion, they all could use nose jobs.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), of which Salzhauer is a member, said the video is "offensive and inappropriate."

Because of its content, and because it was commissioned by one of its members, the ASPS "has initiated an investigation under its Code of Ethics which clearly requires ASPS members to uphold the dignity and honor of the medical profession."

Roth said he could not comment specifically on the investigation but, generally speaking, if a member of ASPS is found guilty of breaching its Code of Ethics, the physician can end up on probation, have his or her benefits put on hold, lose membership, and even lose board certification, he said.

Salzhauer has expanded his plans since The Groggers recorded the music video. He is now holding a contest in which people can make their own music videos for the song. The video creator who receives the most views on YouTube will receive a free rhinoplasty.

The video and contest are an attempt to connect with a younger audience using social media. Although Salzhauer said he recognizes that this campaign might be controversial or seen as encouraging young people to get plastic surgery, he doesn't see it that way.

"This is how people connect nowadays, through social media, and it's a little bit cutting edge," he said. "It can start a discussion on something that is common but still a little bit stigmatized."

This is the second time Salzhauer has given away plastic surgery. In 2008, he gave away a "mommy makeover" to promote his book My Beautiful Mommy, which explains plastic surgery to children.

Salzhauer noted that most of his clients are between 15 and 30, which is no different from when he was young, and girls in his class received rhinoplasties as bat mitzvah gifts, he said.

But Roth of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons said plastic surgeons must be sensitive to the realities of cosmetic surgery, particularly in teenagers.

"This is something elective and needs to be contemplated very carefully by teenagers and their families," Roth said. "There are usually all sorts of issues that a normal teenager goes through, regardless of how they appear to the outside world."

Because of the uniqueness of teens seeking plastic surgery, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons issued a briefing paper on the appropriateness of plastic surgery in teens. "Teens tend to have plastic surgery to fit in with peers, to look similar. Adults tend to have plastic surgery to stand out from others," it states.

Board certified plastic surgeons are to evaluate psychological implications in a potential patient before they ever go under the knife.

"A discussion with the patient and family is important to ascertain whether motivation for consultation might be mitigated with something other than surgery," Roth said. "Surgery is not the first step you take when you're not happy with your appearance."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Playing Music Protects Memory, Hearing, Brain Processing

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(EVANSTON, Ill.) -- Want your brain to be as fit as a fiddle, even after you are old and gray? Then learn how to play a real violin. Or a tuba. Or just about any other musical instrument.

Scientific research over the years has shown that studying music has many rewards, from improving performance in school to dealing with emotional traumas, but the newest research shows that it can do even more than that. It can fine tune the human brain, biologically and neurologically enhancing its performance and protecting it from some of the ravages of time.

Think of musical figures who have had long careers -- from Mick Jagger to Paul McCartney to Barbara Cook -- and it appears there's something, beyond love of their art, that has kept them going.

Nina Kraus's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., has been studying how music affects the human brain for years now, and the latest study from that busy lab shows that musicians suffer less from aging-related memory and hearing losses than non-musicians. It is believed to be the first study to provide biological evidence that lifelong musical experience has a good impact on the aging process, according to Northwestern, where Kraus serves as professor of neurobiology, physiology and communication sciences.

Kraus and her colleagues attached electrodes to the heads of 87 persons ranging in age from 18 to 65, all of whom had normal hearing. About half the subjects had started taking music lessons before the age of nine, and had remained active in music throughout their lives. The others had fewer than three years of music lessons, and were classified as "non-musicians."

The purpose of the electrodes was to measure what neurologists call "neural timing," or how long it takes for a human brain to process an auditory signal. The normal aging process slows that timing, making it more difficult to process sounds, even the sound of a friend's voice in a crowded restaurant, Kraus said in a telephone interview.

The electrodes provided a "very objectively quantifiable" measurement of that processing time, which would normally be expected to be considerably slower in older persons than younger. But that did not turn out to be the case.

Older participants in the study who had made music a big part of their lives could process the signal just about as fast as the younger participants. The "non musicians," however lagged considerably behind, indicating that playing a musical instrument was crucial to retaining memory and hearing.

"As a musician, you get very good at pulling out important information from a complex soundscape," Kraus said, whether it's a musical performance or listening to someone speaking in a noisy room. "The orchestra is playing and you are pulling out the violin line, or the base line, or some harmony. You are always pulling out meaningful components from sound and that's really not all that different from hearing your friend's voice in a noisy restaurant."

"That involves hearing, but it's related to how quickly you can process information and how well you remember it," she said.

Both of those talents tend to decline with age, which is why so many older persons complain of memory lapse and an inability to hear someone in a noisy place. But this work suggests it doesn't decline, if playing a musical instrument is a personal passion over time.

Kraus said it's not enough just to listen to music. It's the intensity of actually performing that is the active ingredient.

"You are not going to get physically fit by watching spectator sports," she added.

Of course, neural timing is not the only component of hearing loss. The inner ear physically changes with age, and the tiny hairs that act as acoustic antennae inside the ear canal deteriorate.

And loud noises, like gunshots, shop tools, or the screaming shockwaves from acid rock, can all damage hearing. None of the participants in the study suffered that kind of damage. And only the "musicians" showed measurable signs of overcoming the tendency of the human brain to gradually slow down the time it takes to receive, process and act upon an auditory signal.

Kraus, whose latest study is in the online edition of the journal Neurobiology of Aging, says the research shows that it's not just hearing that is helped by music. It's also memory, which is among the most common complaints from normal aging.

"If you couldn't remember what I said to you a few seconds ago, you wouldn't be making sense of what I'm saying right now," she said.

So music is good, but is it ever too late to start?

"From everything I know about how the brain changes with experience and what I know about the effect of musical experience on the nervous system, my scientific gut feeling is that it can only help," she said, quickly adding that she doesn't have the data to back that up yet.

Asked if she is a musician, she replied:

"I play a couple of instruments, not particularly well, but I play them with great joy."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can Listening to Hip-Hop Music Help You Learn a New Language?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ALBERTA, Canada) -- Paula Chesley, a visiting professor at the University of Alberta, is no rapper.  But in a study released Wednesday, she found that hip-hop music could actually help children and young adults learn new language.

Some rap lyrics are notoriously difficult to understand, but the correlative study published in PLoS ONE found that the number of hip-hop artists that a person listened to could predict knowledge of non-mainstream words and phrases used in hip-hop songs.

“Hip-hop is highly prominent in mainstream culture nowadays, and thanks to technologies like iPods, smartphones [and] YouTube, adolescents and young adults are able to listen to more music than ever before,” said Chesley.  “This means they get the benefit from repeated exposure, enabling them to better process contextual details that allow for learning these words.”

Researchers gave 168 undergraduate students a set of rap-specific vocabulary words and then told the participants to define them. Students were likely to understand the meaning of the specific vocabulary words tested if they also indicated hip-hop was their preferred music, had social ties to African-Americans and knowledge of pop culture in general.

“Associating language with a melody is generally beneficial to memory,” said Chesley. “In addition, literary tropes such as rhyme, which is omnipresent in hip-hop, are also beneficial.”

While hip-hop tends to interest younger generations, the music genre may still serve as language therapy for older adults as well.

“Insofar as motivation and the desire to be cool seems to be a key element in the learning process, older people currently might not derive any benefit,” said Chesley. “That might change though as people who have grown up with hip-hop get older.”

But Susan Bookheimer, a professor of cognitive neurosciences at UCLA Medical Center, said, “There is no reason older people wouldn’t benefit, provided they actually attend to the lyrics,” and said the research could contribute to novel approaches to language therapy.

“The study is correlational only, that is, they did not introduce new words intentionally in hip-hop songs or use control conditions, so it is difficult to know how useful that would be,” said Bookheimer.  “However, I find it a very exciting finding with clear implications for enhancing knowledge in school-aged kids, particularly among those who struggle with traditional memorization approaches or who are generally disengaged in schoolwork.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Could Mozart Decrease Your Risk of Colon Cancer?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Doctors were more likely to detect precancerous polyps during colonoscopies if they had Mozart playing in the background, a small study found.

It only included two doctors, but for one, listening to Mozart more than tripled the polyp detection rate from 21.25 percent to 66.7 percent, researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston reported Monday at the American College of Gastroenterology's annual meeting. Undetected, the polyps -- called adenomas -- can become cancerous.

“Anything we can do get those rates up has the potential to save lives,” study author Dr. Catherine Noelle O’Shea said in a statement. “While this is a small study, the results highlight how thinking outside the box -- in this case using Mozart -- to improve adenoma detection rates can potentially prove valuable to physicians and patients.”

The polyp detection rate for the other doctor studies rose from 27.16 percent to 36.7 percent.

The study adds weight to the “Mozart effect” -- the long-standing observation that listening to music can lead to a short-term improvement on some mental tasks. Some experts attribute the performance boost to a more positive mood or increased arousal. Others say complex music triggers a response in the brain that makes it better equipped to tackle an additional task.

Untreated, adenomas can lead to invasive colorectal cancer -- the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the U.S. and the second leading cause of cancer death in both sexes combined, according to the American Cancer Society. But when detected early, adenomas can be removed.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends routine screening for colorectal cancer using fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy in men and women aged 50 to 75.

To reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends maintaining a healthy weight and an active lifestyle, eating a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables and grains, and low in red meats -- and moderate consumption of alcohol.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Teens Hear 34 Liquor Brands a Day in Rap, Hip-Hop Music

James Woodson/Valueline/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) -- For every hour that American teens listen to music, they hear more than three references to brand-name alcohol -- about 34 in the course of day.

This heavy exposure could contribute to youth addiction, according to a University of Pittsburgh and Dartmouth University study published online Thursday in the international journal, Addiction.

Researchers point the finger clearly at rap, R&B and hip-hop artists, who they say promote a "luxury lifestyle characterized by degrading sexual activity, wealth, partying, violence and the use of drugs."

Although the alcohol trade industries publicly say they do not market to underage drinkers, researchers said the line is "difficult to distinguish" because liquor companies "retroactively reward" the recording artists with product sponsorships and endorsements when songs climb the charts.

This music is so popular among high school students that the study concludes the relationship between the two industries could encourage young people to begin alcohol use early and to continue drink throughout their teenage years.

Many of the brands that are cited in lyrics -- Patron Tequila, Grey Goose Vodka and Hennessey Cognac -- are those named as favorites by underage drinkers, especially girls, according to the study, authored by Brian A. Primack, Erin Nuzzo and Kristin R. Rice of University of Pittsburgh Medical School and James D. Sargent of Dartmouth University School of Medicine.

Most of the alcohol references in those songs were positive rather than negative ones, they said.  The brand names were associated with wealth 63.4 percent of the time; sex, 58.5 percent; luxury objects, 51.2 percent; partying, 48.8 percent; other drugs, 43.9 percent and vehicles, 39 percent, according to the study.

"Much of the alcohol advertising is "unsolicited," said Frank Coleman, spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS).  "As part of the entertainment industry, we encourage artistic freedom and we encourage all great artists, if they use alcohol as their muse, to do so responsibly.  That's a given."

He also cited 2010 government statistics in a University of Michigan study, Monitoring the Future, that showed underage drinking and binge drinking were at "an all-time low" -- even, according to Coleman, as the popularity of rap music soared.

But the study cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that alcohol use is the "leading root cause" of mortality in adolescence, and its use is associated with substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, academic failure and alcohol dependence.

According to the CDC, 42 percent of high schools students drank some amount of alcohol and 24 percent binge drank in 2009.

The study analyzed 793 of the most popular youth songs between 2005 and 2007, according to Billboard magazine.  They found that 25 percent of those that mentioned alcohol called out a brand name, representing about 3.4 alcohol brand call-outs per song hour.  The average teen listens to about 2.5 hours of music per day, according to the research.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Find Music Helps Individuals with Depression

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Don't throw away the meds yet, but Finnish researchers say music can help lift some depressed people out of the dumps.

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, polled 79 people suffering from depression and randomly assigned 33 of those individuals to three months of therapy with a music therapist. The remaining subjects attended regular therapy only, while all of the patients continued using their regular medication.

After three months of therapy, patients who got in touch with their musical side through the help of their therapist showed fewer depression and anxiety symptoms than their counterparts, while also functioning at a higher level in their daily lives.

Experts say people who get musical are more likely to be in touch with their emotions, and experience a great aesthetic pleasure in creating sound.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Possessed' Hand Claims It Can Teach Guitar

PossessedHand, being developed jointly by the University of Tokyo and Sony Computer Science Laboratories, is a device that can take control of your hand and teach you how to play a musical instrument. (WABC/ABC News)(TOKYO) -- An armband loaded with 28 tiny electrodes could help amateur guitarists learn to play like pros. The device, called PossessedHand, sends pulses of electricity through the skin and into the nerves that power the fingers. And by varying the timing and intensity of the shocks, it could help beginners channel their favorite rockers -- dead or alive.

PossessedHand is still under development by scientists at the University of Tokyo and Sony Computer Science Laboratories. It's not the first gadget to move muscles using electricity -- similar devices have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help people with paralysis. But because PossessedHand can bend several joints simultaneously or in sequence, it could be the first to coax fingers into tackling a tune.

"What's novel about this is they can control finger movement at multiple joints at the same time, and then program when those movements occur," said Dr. Preeti Raghavan, assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at New York University Langone Medical Center.

The result, PossessedHand developers say, is a series of movements that could help people learn to strum a song. But some musicians argue that learning to play an instrument takes more than a flick of the fingers.

"While it looks very innovative, and I'm a big fan of science, music really is a human experience and there's no way around that," said Dan Smith, a New York City guitar teacher. "Making music is a mindset that goes beyond putting your fingers in the right place."

But getting those fingers in the right place -- especially the pinky -- for many, isn't easy.

"You know your hand, and you have to experiment with what works," Smith said. "There's no one right way to do it. There are just ways that, generally speaking, tend to work best."

The signals that move the muscles normally come from the brain. But when a stroke or spinal cord injury causes a break in the neural circuitry, the same nerve-stimulating technology tapped by PossessedHand can help people move an otherwise paralyzed limb. The devices currently available, however, fall short when it comes to power and coordination.

"As the flexor muscles of our hands contract, the extensor muscles relax, and all the other surrounding muscles tense or relax to support the movement," said Dr. Brian Greenwald, assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at New York City's Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "There's an amazing orchestration that occurs when we're flexing our fingers or our wrist. And it's that orchestration that gives us power."

Greenwald said he's surprised PossessedHand could stimulate individual nerves from outside the arm -- a feat that he's only seen accomplished using electrodes implanted under the skin.

"The skin wants to keep things out, and it does a good job of that. To overcome the electrical resistance in the skin, you would have to turn up the voltage you use." And that, Greenwald said, could get uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, the days of electric guitar plucking, and better aids for people with paralysis, could be on the horizon.

"Who would have thought 30 years ago that I'd have 2,000 songs in my pocket," said Greenwald, referring to his iPod. "Like John Lennon said, I'm a dreamer."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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