It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that music is one of our closest friends. Think about everything it does for us ー it is always there when you need it, you can dance along with it, it has something for every mood of yours, it never makes you feel alone and you will always feel better after spending time with it. The fact that music has been around for a long time and plays important roles in various cultures, proves its constant relevance in our lives.
Music has a universal effect. People around the world respond to it in a universal way. For this reason, researchers started studying its effect on our brains. It was found that music activates and engages all parts of the brain. Playing, and even just listening to songs and melodies, can make you smarter, happier, healthier, and more productive at all stages of life. It also helps in reducing stress, pain and symptoms of depression as well as improving cognitive and motor skills, spatial-temporal learning and neurogenesis.
Now that the world is on a lockdown, more and more people are finding an escape in songs. Listening to our favourite jams is something that we do to calm ourselves down instead of just enjoying the tune. Songs and karaoke nights are bringing families as well as strangers together.
Effect of Music on Brain Functions
- Emotion: Music helps people bond because of it. Whether it’s with your own self (dancing and singing when you’re cleaning the house all alone) or with your friends (antakshari on sleepover nights) or even with your parents (mom’s lullaby that put you to sleep when you were a kid), it brings people closer because it affects their emotions. Listening to songs releases oxytocin i.e. the cuddle hormone and dopamine i.e. the happy hormone.
- Memory: Studies have actively demonstrated the link between music and memory. We associate a part of our life to our favourite songs or tunes, which get stored as our memories. Even patients with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimers do not forget certain memories associated with familiar sounds.
- Learning and Neuroplasticity: When our brain is damaged, it can find or create new pathways to function properly. This is called neuroplasticity. In cases of brain injury, for example, music can provide the stimuli to create these new pathways and to help the brain rewire itself. It provides or helps you find alternate routes of healing and growing. Many cases have demonstrated the its effect on a patients’ brain’s ability to reconnect to memories they previously could not access.
- Attention: By engaging our brain and our attention in the right ways, music is able to activate, sustain, and improve our attention. A listener pays the most attention to the spaces of silence between a composer’s musical act. This silence is the period of attention, introspection and reflection for the listener. Soft and calming sounds help improve our attention while loud and upbeat ones make it difficult to concentrate.
What can music do?
This one is a long list. It can…
- change your ability to perceive time
- tap into primal fear
- reduce seizures
- make you a better communicator
- make you stronger
- boost your immune system
- assist in repairing brain damage
- make you smarter
- evoke memories
- help Parkinson’s patients
- alleviate the symptoms of mood and mental disorders
Impact of different genres
Listening to different kinds of music affects your brain differently. Listening to classical music enhances dopamine secretion, brain functions and learning; heavy metal gives you a sense of identity and urges you to do better for the community; rap helps in emotion, language and motivation; pop/rock is a good way to distract yourself and enhance physical performance; and jazz soothes your body. In the end, it really depends on what you prefer to listen to. Researchers have found that listening to music you like increases blood flow to the brain and brain connectivity more than listening to the one you don’t like.
How to utilize music for your improvement
- Learn to play an instrument: This is the best way to boost your brain. The technical skills you use to play the instrument will affect the left side of the brain, while trying out new creative ideas and tunes will affect the right side. This utilization of both the sides of our brains teaches us how to tackle day to day problems and come up with solutions.
- Sing: It really doesn’t matter if you’ve got the perfect voice or not; just sing your heart out when you want to. The act of singing is not just good for your brain, but also your heart! Singing is a good way to let out your emotions, whether they are good or bad and decrease anxiety.
- Chant: We all know the connection between music and spirituality. This is especially true of the sound “om”, which is said to contain every sound in the universe within it. Chanting “om” (or something similar), instills a sense of calm and peacefulness in us. It helps us dissociate from our life’s constant background noise and connect spiritually.
Try listening to music created especially for the brain. Different frequencies affect our brain differently.
Music influences your brain via playing an instrument, listening to your songs streaming app, or enjoying live concerts. We should try to understand how the interactions between music and the brain take place, and how we can consume it in the correct way so that it is beneficial to us and affects the way we feel, think, study and more. What are you waiting for now? Put in your headphones, start your favorite album, and feel your dopamine levels rising!
1. Music & the Brain: The Fascinating Ways Music Affects Your Mood and Mind. Available at: http://www.dailygood.org/story/1613/music-and-the-brain-the-fascinating-ways-music-affects-your-mood-and-mind/. Accessed on 25 May 2020.
2. How Music Affects the Brain. Available at: https://bebrainfit.com/music-brain/. Accessed on 25 May 2020.
3. Your Brain on Music-A popular class breaks down how our brains respond to music. Available at: https://www.ucf.edu/pegasus/your-brain-on-music/. Accessed on 25 May 2020.
4. How Does Music Affect Your Brain? Available at: https://www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/student-lifestyle/how-does-music-affect-your-brain. Accessed on 25 May 2020.