Hearing is more than a matter of noise entering our ears: it’s the result of our perception and our brain’s reconciliation of many inputs—sound, images, and more. 

We’re constantly processing information and making judgments about the location and source of sounds. These assessments in turn help us make mundane as well as life-saving choices, from taking the keys out of the ignition to rescuing the cat from a tree—or even averting an accident.

With years of “practice” at perceiving sounds, our brains actually change. This process of change is called neuroplasticity.

Now imagine the kind of change that must take place in a musician’s brain after hours and years of daily practice. Dr. Poppy Crum, a senior scientist at Dolby and consulting professor at Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA, or “carma”)—and also a concert violinist—set out to explore this potential with her students in Music 257: Neuroplasticity and Musical Gaming.

They developed video games to see whether the phenomenon of neuroplasticity could be used to target the development of specific music-, linguistic-, and acoustic-based skills. Stanford faculty and people from many Bay Area technology companies came to see the students’ final presentations on March 18, 2013.

Watch what they did.

How does sound or music help you focus?

Gaming the brain still 3