Live Music Syncs the Brains of the Performer and Their Audience, Says Science

The better synchronized they are, the better the concert, according to a new study
Live Music Syncs the Brains of the Performer and Their Audience, Says Science
Photo: Rick Clifford
While we patiently await the return of live music amid ongoing physical distancing recommendations, science has determined that part of the reason we dig concerts so much has a lot to do with the way our minds sync up with musicians while they perform.

Using something called dual near-infrared spectroscopy to monitor subjects' experience, a new study by the journal NeuroImagehas found that synchrony can be seen in the brain activities of the audience and performer, Scientific American points out.

What's more, the study found there is a direct correlation between the popularity of a concert and the synchronization between musician and audience brain activity/blood oxygenation levels.

The study found that "the popularity of the performance correlated with the left-temporal inter-brain coherence (IBC) between the audience and the violinist," in an experiment that monitored the activity of 16 audience members and one musician.

During the taped performance, the violinist played excepts from a dozen different compositions, including "Edelweiss," Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria," "Auld Lang Syne" and Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" for the experiment, which collected data from both the performer and the audience members.

As Scientific American reports, "All the musical pieces resulted in synchronization of brain activity between the musician and listener, but this was especially true of the more popular performances. Interbrain coherence was insignificant during the early part of each piece and greatest toward its end. The authors explained that the listener required time to initially understand the musical pattern and was later able to enjoy the performance because it matched that person's expectations."

Additionally, the study found that it could predict the popularity of a performance based on IBC recorded. The higher the correlation, the better the show.