Episode 132: Opera on the Brain

What part of your brain is lighting up when you’re singing? In this episode I take a look at a neat new study that involved having singers lie down in an MRI while their brains were scanned. Take a look at how your cerebellum, your parietal lobe your somato-sentory cortex and your amygdala are all involved in your ability to sing. I’ll also look at how mental rehearsal can positively affect how well you perform a task.

  • Kleber, B., Veit, R., Birbaumer, N., Gruzelier, J., & Lotze, M. (2009). The Brain of Opera Singers: Experience-Dependent Changes in Functional Activation. Cerebral Cortex, 20 (5), 1144-1152.
  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Zarate, J.M. and Zatorre, R.J. (2008). Experience-dependent neural substrates involved in vocal pitch regulation during singing. NeuroImage, 40, 1871–1887.
  • Kleber, B. Birbaumer, N., Veit, R. Trevorrow, T. and Lotze, M. (2007). Overt and imagined singing of an Italian aria. NeuroImage, 36, 889-900.
  • Buonomano DV, Merzenich MM. 1998. Cortical plasticity: from synapses to maps. Annu Rev Neurosci. 21:149-186.
  • Elbert T, Pantev C, Wienbruch C, Rockstroh B, Taub E. 1995. Increased cortical representation of the fingers of the left hand in string players. Science. 270:305-307.
  • Gunji A, Ishii R, Chau W, Kakigi R, Pantev C. 2007. Rhythmic brain activities related to singing in humans. Neuroimage. 34:426-434.
  • Nielsen JB, Cohen LG. 2008. The Olympic brain. Does corticospinal plasticity play a role in acquisition of skills required for high- performance sports? J Physiol. 586:65–70.
  • Opera singing in the brain scanner


  1. hi! im a graduate of educational psychology in De La Salle University Manila.

    I just discovered about the beauty of podcasts and saw your podcast. I wanted to download all your episodes but then there are only 10 episodes remaining in iTunes.

    Earlier I saw hundreds, but then now they’re gone. Would happy to have assistance please. I love your podcast. Thanks! More power!

  2. Hi Toni: thanks for getting in touch. You’re right – as of today (Fri, Oct 15 2010) iTunes does not contain all of the 132 episodes. I figured out the problem and I believe it is fixed but it may take a day or so before iTunes updates and lists all the episodes. Thanks so much for your kind words and for letting me know!

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