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The Impact Of Music On The Human Brain

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

Throughout history, all cultures, from the most primitive to the most advanced, have used music. Music has a huge place in our lives and our societies as a whole. That’s what pushed neuroscientists to fervently research the relationship between the brain and music, in the past decade. The research shows that the influence of music on individuals may not be only emotional, but also linked to a positive effect on the development of the brain. Let’s talk about the impact that music has on the human brain.

Music and memory: the songs you’ll never forget

The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease recently published a study that determined that memory of music is kept in an area of the brain that is not affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia. People suffering from Alzheimer’s for example can experience triggered memory of important personal events when they hear music connected to the experience of those events. Music is often used in forms of treatment to calm patients, who are experiencing chaotic brain activity, and regain connection and focus on their surroundings. Alzheimer’s patients show an increased level of mental activity when listening to music, which means that people enduring increased memory loss can still remember songs from their youth.

Music is the basis of our memories. You know that feeling when a certain song brings you back to an exact moment in time, and it’s almost like you can smell, feel, hear and see the memory - all thanks to a song. Another recent study showed that patients suffering from serious brain injuries were able to recall autobiographical memories when listening to music.

Music and brain plasticity: training the brain

Music, though it is pleasant to listen to, is actually an exercise of the brain. Music stimulates the brain in a way nothing else much does. In fact, playing music is literally a full-body workout. An otolaryngologist from Johns Hopkins (US) says: “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.” Playing music covers auditory, visual, and motor functioning. This largely contributes to building the brain’s neuroplasticity and providing long-term positive effects for musicians.

Some research even found that music lessons have the power to offset some of the effects of aging. People with high musical activity throughout their life seem to benefit from preserved cognitive functioning at an advanced age. Even if you don’t play music yourself, simply listening to music will help you keep your brain healthy, and your memory active.

Music can also help you learn. First of all, listening to music often can train your brain to process more precise sounds, which in turn will help you learn new auditory-based skills. When you learn to play an instrument, your brain’s ability to pick up on precise nuances of speech will be enhanced. Learning music will also improve your ear for learning speech, thanks to pitch, timing, and timbre, which will train you to recognize specific auditory details. This isn’t only good for young people, but for older learners of music, who are seeking the benefits of lifelong learning. Consider signing up for music lessons and see how it impacts your life!

Even listening to music while you’re studying could help you learn. According to a study by Bulgarian psychologist Dr. Georgi Lozanov, the music you listen to while you’re studying can impact your ability to learn and memorize.

Music therapy: healing with sound

Music therapy is the use of music to accomplish therapeutic goals such as reducing stress, helping to improve mood and self-expression. Music therapy experiences include listening, singing, playing instruments, or composing music. Some say it takes two weeks of listening to music to lift your mood and augment your happiness. Music therapy, in its simplest form, is associated with benefits such as:

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Improved memory

  • Enhanced communication and social skills

  • Improved self-reflection

  • Reduced muscle tension

  • Development of healthy coping skills to help manage thoughts and emotions

  • Increased motivation

  • Managed pain

  • Increased joy

Music, when encountered in your everyday life, has therapeutic attributes. However, it is also considered as a real form of therapy for patients suffering from different afflictions. Among those are Alzheimer’s patients.

People who suffer from cognitive decline can deeply benefit from music because it is the last part of the brain that Alzheimer’s touches. Music therapy can do wonders for Alzheimer’s patients, such as:

  • Lift spirits and lessen depression

  • Reduce stress, anxiety, and agitation

  • Boost self-confidence

  • Improve sleep

How do our brains respond to music?

Since 2006, two professors of the University of Central Florida — neuroscientist Kiminobu Sugaya and violinist Ayako Yonetani — have taught a course called “Music and the Brain”. Their teachings detail music’s impact on brain function and human behavior. They explain how music can reduce stress, pain, and signs of depression; improve motor and cognitive skills, and the brain’s ability to produce neurons (plasticity). They also teach students the positive responses to music in patients with neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Usually in the late stages, Alzheimer’s patients are unresponsive,” says Sugaya. “But once you put in the headphones that play music, their eyes light up. They start moving and sometimes singing. The effect lasts maybe 10 minutes or so even after you turn off the music.” Other researchers from John Hopkins have found out that music is a literal boost for the brain. How?

Music jump-starts creativity

Have you ever heard of the Mozart Effect? In 2017, researchers studied the effects of music on creativity. Upbeat music with happy emotions jump-starts creativity, and more specifically, the number of ideas an individual has.

Music jogs memory

Listening to music is basically like playing a carousel of memories you lived at the same time as hearing a certain song. Music has an incredible power to associate itself with memories, huge or insignificant, and can take you back to a specific place and time in seconds.

The bottom line

There are many ways in which music enriches people’s lives. However, it is mind blowing to think about music’s real, tangible effects on the brain. It’s not something we notice when listening to music on a day-to-day basis, but it occurs every time. Music can be used as a way to boost creativity, memory, and even help relieve pain. How amazing. If you’ve been considering taking in-person music lessons or virtual music lessons, contact Greater Toronto Music School today and we can get you started!

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