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Get your groove on: boost your brain


Musical beats don’t just feel good, hearing them can also enhance brain function.

In a new study published in Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan found that music with a groove can significantly increase executive function and associated brain activity. Just the sensation of the groove — a rhythm that gets people “wanting to move to the music” — can elicit feelings of pleasure and behavioural arousal.

Exercise, which has similar positive effects, is known to enhance executive function; this may also be true of listening to groove music. However, no one had studied the effect of such music on executive function or brain activity until now.

“Groove rhythms elicit groove sensations and positive affective responses, but whether they influence executive function was unknown,” says lead author of the peer-reviewed 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.”

To do this, the researchers performed functional near-infrared spectroscopy with a colour-word matching task to examine executive function before and after listening to music. They also conducted a survey of the subjective experience of listening to groove music.

“The results were surprising,” explains Soya. “We found groove rhythm enhanced executive function and activity in the l-DLPFC [left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex] only in participants who reported the music elicited a strong groove sensation and the sensation of being clear-headed.”

Boosting executive function can have a number of benefits ranging from preventing dementia in elderly people to helping workers enhance performance. Furthermore, the effects of groove music on executive function could also include positive emotions and rhythmic synchronisation. This could help explain the many benefits of dancing, or any form of exercise such as house cleaning, when performed while listening to music.

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