Head Banging: How Music and Concussions Impact Brain Health

How do our experiences, such as learning how to play music and playing sports, affect our brain? Although we are surrounded by sound all of the time, we rarely give much thought to this invisible yet powerful companion. The auditory system is a uniquely complex sensory system and the ability to make sense of sound relies on exquisite precision by the brain. Given the complexity and precision of the auditory system, accurate sound processing is particularly vulnerable to head injury. On the other hand, its precision can be honed by activities that exercise the auditory brain such as playing a musical instrument.

We have discovered a way to objectively capture the imprint that sounds leave on our brains. This biological approach empowers us to learn more and more about this invisible ally and enemy of brain health. Dr. Kraus will examine the promise of measuring soundprints in the brain to assess and manage sports-related concussions. She will discuss how music training is beneficial for the brain, strengthens our communication skills, and can inform health care, education, and social policy. Join us on September 25th to get swept away in this sensory learning experience.

 

Nina Kraus, is the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences, Neurobiology, and Otolaryngology at Northwestern University. She is a scientist, inventor, and amateur musician who uses hearing as a window into brain health.

She began her career measuring responses from single auditory neurons and was one of the first to show that the adult nervous system has the potential for reorganization following learning; these insights in basic biology galvanized her to investigate sound processing in the brain in humans.

Through a series of innovative studies involving thousands of research participants from birth to age 90, her research has found that our lives in sound, and our experiences, for better (musicians, bilinguals) and for worse (concussion, aging, language disorders), shape how our brain makes sense of the sounds we hear.

Using the principles of neuroscience to improve human communication, she advocates for best practices in education, health, and social policy. See www.brainvolts.northwestern.edu.