The fascinating effect of music on our brain

Oct. 17, 2016

Awareness

The fascinating effect of music on our brain

Music is emotion and memory. It connects people, makes unforgettable moments, creates atmosphere, and does much more. The positive influence of music on our brain can now even be used in medicine.

What exactly happens to our bodies when we hear music? What appears to be so simple and obvious is in reality the complex analysis function of our brain, where sound is redirected from the inner ear to the brain stem via the auditory nerve. There are several stations that process, filter and boost sound before we even become aware of it. What we ultimately perceive or hear is very much dependent on our previous experiences and cultural background. A sound is therefore not just a sound – hearing is learned and everyone perceives music differently.

Are we all musical?
Even an infant’s brain can recognize, classify and reproduce melodies and sounds. Apart from people with rare neurological disorders, each one of us has this special feel for music – it’s just more pronounced in some than in others.1 

The therapeutic power of music 
But what does music have to do with medicine? Today, music is used in a targeted way by doctors and therapists to achieve positive effects. For example, happy pieces of music are played to patients before operations in order to reduce the level of cortisol, the stress hormone,  and the amount of anesthetic required. In speech therapy, music can help to improve the linguistic ability and listening comprehension of children with speech and language development disorders. 

Training for our brain
The power of music can even change whole structures in our brain. Nerve cells can reconnect during the musical journey and can link different areas of our brain together more effectively.2 Neuroscientists call it neuroplasticity. Music has an exceptional ability to stimulate and train our neuronal network. For example, we now know that musical people are better at concentrating, learning foreign languages and remembering words.

Music improves your hearing health
Music also has a positive influence on our hearing health:  Scientists have discovered that people who don’t create music often rely on hearing aids earlier in life than those with a musical education.   So training our brains with music means we will be able to process sounds better, enjoy our favorite music more and be able to communicate better with others even in old age.4 

Whether music is used as a therapeutic measure or just a backdrop to our everyday life – it has a big influence on our well-being. A power that every one of us can use.

Please don’t play it too loudly! 

Even if we love the music: Our hearing is very delicate – especially when things get too loud. Here are a couple of practical tips to help protect our hearing.

 

Further information

Neurobiology of everyday communication: what have we learned from music?

Music training: lifelong investment to protect the brain from aging and hearing loss  

1http://www.zeit.de/zeit-wissen/2012/01/Psychologie-Musik
2https://www.dasgehirn.info/entdecken/grosse-fragen-1/Musik-bringt-Bewegung-ins-Gehirn-auch-an-unerwarteten-Ecken-2521
3https://www.welt.de/gesundheit/psychologie/article153754027/Warum-Musik-unserem-Gehirn-so-guttut.html
4http://www.brainvolts.northwestern.edu/documents/KrausWhiteSchwoch_AcoustAussie2014.pdf 

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