Technology and music intertwined for the first time in 1860, when Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville attempted to record a French folk song called “Au Claire de la Lune”. He attempted to do so using a device called the Phonautograph.
Today, technology is indispensable when it comes to creating music. It is the reason why we can learn about the effects of music on the human mind. With the help of brain-imaging systems, scientists have been able to unravel many mysteries.
How Is Your Brain’s Response to Music Collected?
With functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), scientists can study the neurological response evoked by music. They can learn how it affects our overall mood and emotional reaction. All the soundtracks you enjoy listening to evoke completely different responses.
What Parts of the Brain Are Stimulated When You Hear Music?
“This Is Your Brain on Music” by Daniel J. Levitin describes how music stimulates various parts of the brain, not just one side of it.
The auditory cortex tracks the loudness, rhythm, and pitch of the music. The visual cortex is responsible for reading musical notes. The motor cortex, on the other hand, is stimulated by your body’s physical reaction to music. For this reason, an Alzheimer patient is unlikely to forget how to play the piano; music is ingrained into muscle memory.
Lastly, The hippocampus is responsible for retrieving memory. It is the reason why we have an emotional response to popular songs from the past.
The Effect of Music on Your Brain
So, what exactly is music and why is it so pleasant? When someone plays music, sound reaches our ear canal in the form of air vibrations. These vibrations travel through neurons as synapses to the auditory nerve. When they reach the brain, we recognize them as melodies. The magic lies in the frequency of these vibrations. The frequency that your brain resonates with is your favourite genre of music.
But why does listening to music feel so enjoyable? A study by two neuroscientists, Robert Zatorre and Anne Blood, shows that listening to music releases dopamine, a hormone that makes you feel happy, into our bloodstream.
This is the same hormone that is released when we have good food, for example. But music can also make us feel a myriad of other emotions, like sadness, boredom, or even frustration. When it comes to tweaking human emotions, music is a powerful tool.
Nina Kraus, who researches on music psychology at Northwestern University, believes that humans are genetically constructed to synchronize with music, a perfect example of which is our rhythmic heartbeat. Music can stimulate more parts of our brain than most day-to-day activities do. In a study called Music Alters Visual Perception, researchers Jacob Jolij and Maaike Meurs claim that the type of music you listen to can alter your perception of the world.
The type of music that makes you happy might bore another person. Whether it’s rock, hip-hop, classical, heavy metal or electronic music, the genre that you enjoy is entirely dependent on your background and exposure.
This aspect cannot be attributed to your genetics, as it is entirely sociological. However, researchers in the past believed that listening to classical music could boost your IQ score. This was called the Mozart effect. However, recent studies have proven otherwise.
Another study conducted by John Hopkins University had musicians create music inside of an fMRI machine. They discovered that listening to music or playing an instrument acts as a complete brain workout. The study also suggests that listening to music regularly can keep your brain young.
The Effect of Music on Your Well-Being
The effect that music has on the human mind is intriguing. While research on music psychology may be ongoing, there is one thing we can say for sure. Incorporating more music into your daily routine has a significant effect on your quality of life.
Here are some of the positive effects music can have on you:
- Music reduces pain. It releases the body’s pain-relieving opioids
- Aids neurogenesis. This is the process by which our brain develops more neurons, thereby improving our cognitive abilities
- Releases dopamine that improves overall mood
- Can improve attention span
- Alleviates stress by lowering cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone that your body releases when it undergoes any kind of stress
- Helps patients who have been through a heart attack, stroke, or seizure relax.
- Can be used as a therapy to help people with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Improves memory. Listening to a song or melody from the past can take you back in time instantly.
- Improves communication. When words aren’t enough, music can express how you’re feeling. In tough times, people often resort to music for company.
Your favorite music has a whole new meaning to life. Now you know that your favorite songs help communicate better, reduce stress levels, and live an overall healthier life.