“One good thing about music, is when it hits you, you feel no pain.” Bob Marley
There is nothing like hearing your favorite song come on the radio. You immediately turn the volume up, probably start singing, and your mind immediately goes to the memories this song invokes. Or the feeling when you see your favorite musician live.
Thousands of people in one place, singing their hearts out together in unison? It’s an amazing, exhilarating experience. Music can make us happy, sad, angry, melancholy, and every emotion in between. Music is good for your soul, but did you know that music is also great for your brain?
When we listen to music, the brain engages the areas involved with paying attention, making predictions, and memory. We are particularly affected when it’s music we recognize and love. Take, for example, a study conducted by Houston Methodist. They conducted a study on music’s effect on the brain. Subjects were placed in an MRI machine and were given different types of music to listen to. They were also given spoken word to listen to and finally a song of their own choosing to listen to. They wanted to see how those experiences compared to each other. They discovered certain areas of the brain saw significant increase in blood flow and activity when they listened to music they had a strong personal connection to.
To listen to the podcast from the lead researchers on this study, click HERE.
Comparison imagery of patients’ brains when listening to music they’re not familiar with and music the subjects are familiar with, from a video by Houston Methodist.
According to a study done by Stanford University School of Medicine, music can provide valuable insights into how the brain organizes our world for us. In the study, scientists found that the brain is most active during short periods of silence between musical movements. This lends insight into how the brain organizes information for us in our daily lives.
The research team used music to figure out how the brain makes sense of the flow of information it receives in the real world—a process called event segmentation. When we receive information, the brain sorts that information into chunks by ascertaining what is a beginning, ending and boundaries between certain events. In the instance of this study, the researchers saw dynamic changes on MRI scans when the brain evolved in response to music phases in a symphony. When one movement was terminated and a brief pause followed, the ventral fronto-temporal network (responsible for language, emotion and memory) was activated. Then the dorsal fronto-parietal network (responsible for motor planning and imagery, mental rotation, spatial attention, and working memory) turned attention to changes going on in the music and updated working memory in the brain.
What does that mean for an average person? According to Dr. Jonathan Berger, co-author of the study, listening to music engages the brain over time and the process of listening to music is one way the brain sharpens its ability to sustain memory and attention and anticipate future events. Music can also benefit our physical and emotional health in many ways.
How else can music benefit your health?
- Reduce perception of pain. As Bob Marley said, music can reduce how we feel pain, especially for older patients. When you’re listening to music that’s pleasing to you, you don’t feel pain as intensely.
- Work out harder. When working out, fast music induces you to work harder. Listening to music that pumps you up helps you run faster, be more motivated and have longer endurance.
- Recover faster. Listening to music after you’re done working out has benefits too. Slower music produces relaxation response after exercise and helps you recover.
- Sleep better. Classical music has been proven to treat insomnia. A much better and safer alternative to sleep meds.
- Eat less. Soft music and lighting helps you slow down while eating and consume less food at each meal.
- Enhance blood flow. The emotion music invokes has a healthy effect on blood vessel function. Music makes us happier, which increases blood flow.
- Reduce stress. When we listen to music we like, we trigger biochemical stress reducers in our body.
- Elevates mood. When you feel down music can pump you back up. It can put you in a better mood and helps you regulate your feelings. Classical and meditative music are best for this.
- Improves cognitive performance. Studies have shown that background music helps test takers complete more questions and get more answers right. This is due to music’s involvement in memory and organization skills in the brain.
- Improves response. Listening to upbeat music before a big game or high pressure situation helps improve performance during the event.
- Cuts anxiety. Music can reduce anxiety similar to getting a massage. Double the benefits by listening to your favorite tunes while getting a massage!
- Assists in surgery. Studies have found that patients who listen to music before and after a surgery had reduced anxiety and improved recovery times.
- Reduce road rage. Listening to great music while driving impacts your mood and reduces crankiness.
- Helps with Parkinson’s. Rhythmic music helps retrain the brain after neurological impairment. Slow, steady beats can help patients with Parkinson’s move more steadily.
There are many health benefits to listening to music of all kinds. BrainTap, the leader in enhanced meditation, recognized early on how important music would be to helping our clients achieve the results they’re looking for. We use 10-cycle holographic music in our audio sessions. This type of sonic technology produces a 360-degree sound environment to engage the brain and create a more receptive learning state so you can achieve the results you’re looking for.
No matter what type you listen to, be sure to include music in your everyday activities. Not only will you get a mood boost, but you’ll also encourage your brain to work harder, faster and stronger for you every day.