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Music and The Brain

What would humanity be without music? Music is not only able to trigger deep emotions in us, but music has also proven to improve our memory.

But what happens in our brains when we listen to music or make music ourselves, and what other effects does music have on our brain?

What happens in the Brain when Listening to Music?

When we attend a concert or listen to music at home, that’s first and foremost something we enjoy. We are not aware that many processes are taking place in our brain during this process.

Listening to music is like a learning process in which nerves are stimulated and reconnected in the brain. We automatically create an entire database of songs, musicians and genres that we can retrieve at any time as fast as lightning.

Also, we associate certain emotions and moments in life with certain songs, which means that memories are more easily accessible through music and our memory performance is improved.

Black man listening to Music and the Brain

Effects of Music on the Brain

1. Music and Brain: Music activates the Reward Circuits of the Brain

Listening to relaxing and enjoyable music activates the reward circuits, as well as certain stimuli that are biologically relevant, as this study proves.

The reward cycle consists of various brain zones (Area tegmental ventralis and Nucleus accumbens), which belong to the limbic system, which is responsible for the processing of the emotions.

In these zones, a series of chemical processes occur, f.e dopamine release and others associated with pleasure.

These reward systems are naturally activated by foods (high in sugar and fats), sex and affection.

Thus, nature ensures that we are actively seeking to satisfy these basic needs that are so fundamental to our survival. Nonetheless, there are other stimuli, such as drugs and gambling, that also activate these systems.

These stimuli are prone to induce addictions as they provide a great deal of pleasure.

2. Music and Brain: Music increases Attention

According to a study by the University of Stanford, the music helps us anticipate events and keep attention.

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But we can not lump all kinds of music together. Which music is useful for the brain? In concrete terms, the music of the composer William Boyce in baroque style was used in this study.

Woman listening to Music and the Brain

3. Music and Brain: Music Reduces Stress

Many studies have shown that music has a calming effect; With a slow tempo, soft tones and no lyrics, it lowers stress levels and nervousness.

Which music is actually beneficial for the brain? It has been observed that meditative music significantly lowers the level of cortisol (a hormone released in stressful situations) in the blood. In addition, music can help combat insomnia.

In addition, it can be observed that music has an analgesic and calming effect on patients undergoing surgery. This may be due to the ability of the music to change the state of mind or distract us.

4. Music and Brain: Music affects our state of Mind and Emotions

According to a study, listening to classical music and New Age music reduces fatigue, sadness, and tension.

In addition, it has been found that music we like, regardless of the style of music, promotes a positive emotional state, but without the inclusion of grunge music.

This style of music triggered an increase in the levels of hostility and tension, and at the same time lowered the levels of relaxation, motivation and mental clarity.

The music style with the most beneficial effects was “designer music”. This type of music for the brain refers to music designed specifically to create a certain effect on the listener.

In the study, Speed of Balance was used with the intention “to create a mental and emotional balance so that people can experience clearer and more positive feelings”.

It showed that the levels of relaxation, motivation, and mental clarity increased with all participants … and the hostility, tension, exhaustion and sadness sank.

According to this study, the brain zone associated with conflict and emotional pain perception is activated when one hears unpleasant music.

5. Music and Brain: Music changes our Visual Perception

According to a study by the University of Groningen, music is changing our way of seeing the world.

How does music affect our brain?

When a person hears sad music, he is more likely to interpret the other’s expressions as sad. In contrast, he sees others with happy facial expressions when he hears happy music.

So music not only affects our state of mind but also affects our way of perceiving the world.

6. Music and Brain: Music improves Cognitive Functions

According to this study, listening to The Four Seasons of Vivaldi Spring increases mental alertness and cerebral measurements of attention and memory. In contrast, the autumn concert worsens the scores in the cognitive tests.

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It has also been observed that Spring exaggerates the brain zones responsible for processing feelings. This may be partly because it is a familiar piece, which is often used in advertising. This facilitates the elicitation of feelings.

Man works after Music and The Brain

7. Music and Brain: Music says something about our Personality

According to this study, our musical preferences depend on our personality.

The study was conducted with adolescents but gives interesting as well as controversial data. Those who prefer loud music (heavy metal, rock …) are more independent or individualistic, which may mean low self-esteem and self-doubt.

These people are often difficult and they lack the connection to others. Those who prefer light music try to do the right thing and keep their feelings in check. They struggle to find a balance between their independence and peer dependency.

The young people with mixed or different tastes are the ones who have the least problems in their youth, they have no relevant conflicts.

In this other study, a relationship between music and the Big 5 (personality traits) is established. It shows that people who prefer rock often show low levels of conscientiousness and high values of openness.

Those who prefer pop, dance music or urban music have higher levels of extraversion and compatibility.

According to this study, the connection with the personality can be due to the satisfaction of certain needs through the music.

For example, dance and pop music in extroverts satisfy their need to meet with friends and have fun.

In contrast, persons with high openness in non-commercial rock music and other musical styles seek intellectual and unconventional stimulation.

The most open-minded people, most interested in new experiences, continue to seek music that is far from popular culture.

Are Musicians more Clever than non-Musicians?

The one thing is what happens in our brain when we listen to music, the other thing is what happens when we make music.

Researchers have found that people who have learned a musical instrument over their lives can actually focus on one thing better and longer than non-musicians.

Also, musicians seem to have fewer problems with languages and communication.

But why is that?

Musicians have to memorize many notes, develop a sense of rhythm and train their sensory abilities. This process is similar to the brain jogging effect, so it represents an additional training session for our brain, which has a correspondingly positive effect on our brain performance.

Must I learn an Instrument?

The answer is quite simple: No, you do not have to.

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Of course, it is not absolutely necessary to learn a musical instrument if you do not really feel like it.

You can also improve your brain and memory performance in other ways, for example by reading or brain jogging.

In addition, many other factors also play a role here: for optimal brain performance, a healthy lifestyle, i. E. little stress and no smoking as well as a lot of sports and the right diet, among others decisive.

Should you Listen to Music while Working?

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig have asked themselves whether it is more productive and more efficient to listen to music while working.

To do this, they tested people, some of whom they allowed to listen to music next to their work and partly not.

The result was clear: those who listened to their favorite music in addition to the work were significantly more productive than the others and even consumed less energy because they adapted their working rhythm to the rhythm of the music.

Another study came to the same conclusion in 1999. Here 72 employees of a bank were sonicated with music over a period of three weeks. It turned out that even in this case the employees adjusted their work pace to the music and worked faster than before.

So the answer to the question at the outset is yes, music makes people more productive.

Music in the Office

Listening to music in the office is not always a good thing and depends on the type of activity.

For example, if you want to brainstorm, sit in a creative writing process, or handle important numbers, music is more of a hindrance. For phases like these, where you need your full concentration, you should choose a quiet background noise.

Also, you should listen to music only with headphones, so as not to bother your colleagues and choose an appropriate volume so that you can still pick up the phone when it rings.

What is also less conducive to your concentration is to read lyrics while listening to lyrics, because that may distract one or the other. Suitable work in the office to listen to music is repetitive activities such as answering e-mails, filing, or editing pictures.

Conclusion: Music and the Brain

Music does certainly have plenty of influences on our brain. Most of them are positive.

My recommendation, use music for repetitive activities. Ones that you can basically do subconsciously. For those activities, music can make you more relaxed, improve your mood and make you even more productive.

But when in stressful situations that require a lot of deep thinking, put the headphones aside and focus.



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