Published on Oct 21, 2013
Music for the Soul, Healing for the Brain: Reverse Engineering Neurological Processes with Lessons Learned from the Ring Shout
MELINDA CONNOR, Phoenix, AZ
HANSONIA CALDWELL, California State University
SALLYANNE PAYTON, University of Michigan
Both from historical and current perspectives, the African American Ring Shout has inherent healing, power and passion as an integral part of the experience. We began with historical reports and current observation and "reverse engineered" the phenomenon to include the most current understanding of neurological processes involved and to present a theory of the healing described in the historical literature which also provides a template for creating the healing music of tomorrow. Much of the brain becomes engaged when singing or listening to the spirituals. Tempo, pitch, harmony, breath and community all play a part. With participation of the motor, visual, auditory and somatosensory cortex, the frontal-parietal religious circuit with multimodal and stepwise integration of brain response, the stage is set for improved neuro-plasticity and increased integration. Neuro-plasticity allows the brain to re-task existing nerves to take over areas that have been damaged or pruned. These types of changes produce growth in executive function, language, timing and working memory. When we then combine category-specific activation with the other factors there is an increased ability to evaluate situations of cognitive dissonance and abstract congruence. This helps to limit stress damage to the brain and grow grey and white matter in specific areas.