Music and the Brain in the News: Why We Love To Boogie With Pharrell

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Editor’s Note: I heard this story on NPR in the car this morning.   Made me think that perhaps we as therapy clinicians can use this information to help get all our special kids moving as a brain break, for specific OT and PT goals, or as part of a music therapy curriculum.



There’s no doubt Pharrell’s “Happy” is the biggest hit of the year so far. It spent 15 weeks at the top of the Billboard 100 and inspired hundreds of fan videos on YouTube.

Just a few weeks ago, six Iranian teenagers got arrested for posting a video of themselves dancing to the catchy song.

So what is it about “Happy” that triggers a nearly uncontrollable need to tap your foot, bob your head or move to the rhythm in some way?

It may be more about what’s missing from the song than what’s there.

Last month neuroscientists at Aarhus University in Denmark published a study showing that danceable grooves have just the right amount of gaps or breaks in the beats. Your brain wants to fill in those gaps with body movement, says the study’s lead author, Maria Witek.

“Gaps in the rhythmic structure, gaps in the sort of underlying beat of the music — that sort of provides us with an opportunity to physically inhabit those gaps and fill in those gaps with our own bodies,” she says.

Read the Rest of this Article or Listen to the Podcast on NPR


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