What Is Music’s Effect on the Brain and Why You Should Listen
Music has existed since the days of the earliest humans. Since then, it’s been a significant part of our emotional makeup and our society. For example, all of us can recall a time that a favorite song brightened our day. And many young people spend hours each day with headphones on, listening to the latest music.
What is the point of all that music? Why are we so attracted to it, and how does it benefit us? Keep reading to find out.
How Music Affects the Brain
You might be surprised to learn that music has a massive effect on the physical structure of our brains and bodies. It activates every known region of the brain in every human being around the world. In fact, the effect is so noticeable that it has caused the creation of a new scientific discipline: neuromusicology, the study of music’s effect on our nervous systems.
After studying the brains of professional musicians, scientists noted the following physical and mental differences between musical brains and other brains:
- Musicians have bigger, more sensitive brains with more neural connections.
- Musicians have a better working memory as well as improved auditory skills, cognitive flexibility, motor control, and spatial coordination.
- Musicians have a larger corpus callosum: the bundle of nerve fibers that allows the left and right sides of a brain to communicate. A larger corpus callosum indicates that the two sides of musicians’ brains are better at communicating.
By monitoring brain activity with MRI scans, scientists have also found that music stimulates increased activity in the part of our brains that is responsible for emotion, called the limbic system. That means that when you listen to a song you enjoy, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel more hopeful and optimistic. Even patients in the late stages of degenerative neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s respond positively to music, often by moving around or singing along. That’s significant since late-stage neurological patients are usually completely unresponsive.
On average, even people who aren’t professional musicians end up listening to about 32 hours of music each week. That’s plenty of time to see the tangible mental and emotional benefits.
Why You Should Listen to Music
The benefits of listening to music are nearly endless. Let’s take a look at a few of the most notable reasons you should listen to music regularly.
Music improves mood. Both listening to and playing music reduces the stress hormone cortisol. It can also improve sleep quality and mental alertness, which will help you to feel better throughout the day. Amazingly, music can also help you become a better communicator by stimulating the brain regions responsible for generating and understanding language. Strengthening relationships with others through music is an easy way to boost your happiness.
Music increases feel-good brain chemicals. Chemicals naturally produced in your brain like endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin are stimulated by music. That can lead to several positive effects. For example, endorphins are brain chemicals that make you feel good and lowers your perception of pain. So, music can actually help you cope with pain! Additionally, the bumps in dopamine and oxytocin can help you to feel more motivated, experience greater pleasure throughout the day, and become more generous.
Music improves creativity and productivity. It’s been scientifically proven that background music enhances cognitive performance, improves work accuracy, and helps people to complete repetitive tasks more effectively. So, next time you’re doing the dishes or sweeping put on some tunes! You might just find yourself finishing chores faster.
Music is especially helpful for seniors. For instance, it can protect against memory issues and cognitive decline more effectively than other hobbies. It can increase mental flexibility and improve the quality of life for patients with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, cancer, dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Music can also help reduce stress and confusion before and after surgery. It can even boost your immune system!
No matter your age, it’s never too late to cultivate a love of music. So, go ahead and pull out your old records, cassette tapes, and CDs. Get yourself a subscription to an unlimited online music streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music. Ask your kids and grandkids what they’re listening to, and bond with them over your shared love of music. Your brain will thank you.
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