Grateful Dead Drummer Joins Effort to Study How Rhythm Heals

    01 April, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    American researchers say contact with rhythm may help people with neurological diseases lead a better life. The researchers reported the finding after they carried out experiments with a famous rock and roll musician.

    Scientists say that timing has a major influence on how the human brain works, and when the timing is off, so is the processing of information.

    The new study is the work of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. They examined the brain of Mickey Hart. He is a former member of the rock group The Grateful Dead. For the study, he was asked to play electronic drums as a part of a computer game.

    Grateful Dead Drummer Joins Effort to Study How Rhythm Heals
    Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart Teams with Scientist to explore healing power of rhythm

    Doctor Adam Gazzaley is a neurologist. He says the experiments combined neuroscience with modern technology - gaming and the virtual world.

    "So we couple these three different worlds together, use them to inform each other and create really the most powerful real time neural activity visualizer that anyone has ever seen," he said.

    Mickey Hart wore a special headgear with sensors as he played the drums. In another room, scientists watched how his brain reacted to the orderly beat or rhythm. They watched how his eyes move, they measured changes in his blood flow and body temperature.

    All this information showed his brain's activity in real-time. Mickey Hart says, he is interested in knowing how his brain, what he calls "the master clock" works.

    "What is that power, how do we use it, how to we repeat and how can we make a better world using the tools that we have been given. This super organism, there is nothing better than this, this master clock," said Hart.

    Researcher Adam Gazzaley says he wanted to see if rhythm could perhaps repair damaged connections in a patient's brain.

    "So the idea is that if we can teach the brain how to become a better timing machine, better rhythmically, that your brain will perform at a more optimal level and it will translate into how you interact with the world around you and lead to a better quality of life," he said.

    Mickey Hart has been interested in the power of music for many year. In the 1980s, he used music to connect with his grandmother who was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. She had not spoken in a year. When he played the drums, she spoke his name, and started talking again.

    Scientists say their goal is to use rhythm training and even video games to improve brain function. They believe that when the brain operates efficiently, people enjoy a better quality of life.

    And that is the Health Report from VOA Learning English. I'm Milagros Ardin.