Music and the Brain
By Kyle Huang
Whether you are listening to your favorite song on the radio, picking up a new instrument for the first time, or belting out those high notes from Frozen 2 in the shower, your brain is actively engaging in music. Since your brain behaves similarly to your muscles, every time you choose to engage in music, you are exercising your brain! And when you are practicing your favorite instrument, you are giving your brain the equivalent of a full-body workout!
Here are five other cool facts about how music can affect the body and the brain!
1. Music can boost your immune system
The psychological2 effects of music are enormous! Who knew that, just by listening to music, you can help your body fight off infections? Scientists have found that listening to and playing music increases your body's production of cells that attack invading viruses and boost the immune system's effectiveness. Next time you feel a little under the weather, play your favorite song, and you might start to feel better!
The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defend your body against infection
Psychology is that which affects the mind; the mental and emotional state of a person
2. Listening to a sad or a happy song can influence your perception of the world
Your brain is always comparing the information you receive from your senses with what you already know about the world around you. In other words, your perception of reality is formed in part by the ambience3 around you. Happy songs will boost your mood and make you see the world differently just as sad songs will make you cry when you listen to them. Even your heartbeat adapts to the rhythm of the music you’re listening to! Just remember, whenever you’re feeling down, listen to Happy by Pharrell Williams, and you’ll crack a smile in no time!
Ambience is the character and atmosphere of a place
3. Music improves your memory
The part of the brain that processes music is the same part that creates and stores memories. So when you hear a song you know, it’s often attached to a memory. Because of the dopamine4 release you get when you hear a song you like, your brain makes a positive connection between a song and a memory. This way, your brain can more easily recall memories and things you’ve learned!
Helpful study tip: Listening to music while studying can temporarily help you retain more information for a short period of time. This is called the Mozart Effect. (Don’t worry, rap-lovers, the Mozart Effect isn’t specific to classical music.)
4. Dopamine is an important brain chemical that influences your mood and helps you feel good!
4. Music can heal the brain
Music therapy is a developing field in the medical industry with huge potential benefits. Some of its fascinating research includes helping patients with memory loss (like dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s) experience pain relief, recover their ability to speak, and even access lost memories! By listening to or playing music, you are creating neural paths5 in your brain that can help bring back long-forgotten memories and can even link two separate ideas together to make new connections in different parts of your brain.
5. Neural paths are pathways created in the brain where signals travel to relay information
5. Music can relieve your stress
Feeling stressed for your test next week? No longer! Regardless of genre, listening to music can help you reduce your stress. Studies show that jamming to your favorite songs helps reduce the production and release of cortisol, often called “the stress hormone.” Less cortisol means better learning-capability and memory; lower blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol; and a less likely chance of heart disease.
What are you still waiting for? Go listen to some of the music you love!