Every Brain Needs Music

The Neuroscience of Making and Listening to Music

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Pub Date 16 May 2023 | Archive Date 23 Aug 2023

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Whenever a person engages with music—when a piano student practices a scale, a jazz saxophonist riffs on a melody, a teenager sobs to a sad song, or a wedding guest gets down on the dance floor—countless neurons are firing. Playing an instrument requires all of the resources of the nervous system, including cognitive, sensory, and motor functions. Composition and improvisation are remarkable demonstrations of the brain’s capacity for creativity. Something as seemingly simple as listening to a tune involves mental faculties most of us don’t even realize we have.

Larry S. Sherman, a neuroscientist and lifelong musician, and Dennis Plies, a professional musician and teacher, collaborate to show how our brains and music work in harmony. They consider music in all the ways we encounter it—teaching, learning, practicing, listening, composing, improvising, and performing—in terms of neuroscience as well as music pedagogy, showing how the brain functions and even changes in the process. Every Brain Needs Music draws on leading behavioral, cellular, and molecular neuroscience research as well as surveys of more than a hundred musical people. It provides new perspectives on learning to play, teaching, how to practice and perform, the ways we react to music, and why the brain benefits from musical experiences.

Written for both musical and nonmusical people, including newcomers to brain science, this book is a lively and easy-to-read exploration of the neuroscience of music and its significance in our lives.


Larry S. Sherman is a professor of neuroscience at the Oregon Health and Science University. An enthusiastic piano player since age four, he has published widely on brain development, aging, and disease, and given lectures on music and the brain throughout the world.

Dennis Plies, who was for many years a music professor at Warner Pacific University, has been involved with music for his entire life. Starting at the age of seven, he played marimba for audiences and on television, and he has recorded albums in genres including gospel, classical, and jazz.

Susi B. Davis began painting watercolors in her early teens. She continues to paint in watercolors and acrylics in her studio in Portland, Oregon, where she also teaches painting. She has previously illustrated several books, including children’s books about animals and a hiking guide featuring flowers and plants in the Pacific Northwest.

Whenever a person engages with music—when a piano student practices a scale, a jazz saxophonist riffs on a melody, a teenager sobs to a sad song, or a wedding guest gets down on the dance...

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EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780231209106
PRICE $32.00 (USD)

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