Have you ever listened to one of your favourite songs and found yourself unconsciously tapping your feet to the beat? Have you ever bawled while listening to Adele after a break up but found your mood lifting after singing along and attempting to mimic her high notes?
You may not be aware, but the effects music has on the brain are quite profound.
Emotions are stimulated by listening to music and it can help to process grief and fear. Lyrics, on the other hand, engage our analytical mind.
The physical effects of music have been measured by monitoring the way the brain behaves. It goes beyond just head-bobbing and tapping along to a beat.
When we listen to music we like, the pleasure centres of the brain are triggered. Everyone has specific music that they favour and this plays a part in the effects music has on the brain.
Oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone” is released, along with dopamine. Furthermore, antibodies that boost immunity are improved.
The music and neuroscience relationship is continuously expanding. Great strides have also been made in terms of understanding mental health. The prevalence of autism has led to numerous alternative solutions being sought for how to manage the condition. In one study from the Journal of Music Therapy, featuring autistic children, it was found that music could be used as a form of communication. This simultaneously increased emotional understanding in these children. For example, using Pharrell’s “Happy” song to encourage the subjects in the study to associate it with the feeling of joy, led to music succeeding where verbal language failed.
In cases of brain injuries, music has been shown to stimulate brains to rewire themselves and to reconnect to memories that were previously inaccessible.
Brain development is also positively influenced by music. Learning to play an instrument has been shown to improve attention, communication between both brain hemispheres and literacy. Brain functions such as memory, learning and auditory processing improves.
The effects music has on the brain are still being discovered through research.