Music is a powerful tool that helps us in many ways. If we’re feeling low, it helps to motivate us and when we can’t focus to get through that late evening at work, it helps us get through the long lagging hours. Its scientifically proven that listening to music makes us happier. Music has a direct effect on hormones and can even decrease levels of the hormone cortisol in the body; counteracting the effects of chronic stress. So, here we have collected some facts about the benefits and what really goes on inside our brain when we listen to music.
1. Listening to music can improve our learning ability, coordination and motor skills.
Listening to music is great exercise for the brain. Your brain subliminally monitors melody, harmony and rhythm at the same time. This can ultimately improve our learning ability, coordination and motor skills. It’s also a major performance enhancer. Studies show that background music can boost cognitive performance on tasks like academic tests. Another study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, shows that upbeat music can help you do well under pressure. (source)
2. It can help you heal.
Everyone’s been there. You go through a break-up and all you want to do is lay on your bed and listen to some soul-shattering music. This is something we all have done at least once in our lives. However, a study by PLOS ONE, shows that sad music may not actually make you feel very sad at all. Researchers from Freie Universität Berlin surveyed 772 participants from around the globe to find out why people seek out sad music, particularly during breakups.
The study concluded that listening to sad songs causes you to experience four different cognitive rewards of music-evoked sadness: the reward of imagination, emotion regulation, empathy and no “real-life” implications. This means that you get pleasure from connecting with the music and letting your imagination run with the spontaneity of the melody. (source)
3. A 2014 study found that people who experienced “chills” while listening to music were more generous.
Music can be chill, and chill people definitely listen to music, but can music make someone more chill? A group of Japanese scientists questioned whether it’s possible and they were determined to find the results. Nara University medical researcher, Hajime Fukui, conducted the study on 22 of his students. The students were given a simulation where they had to distribute money to x amount of people. All 22 of them had to perform the simulation exactly three times; one after listening to their favorite kind of music, then after listening to a song they disliked and the third after a period of silence.
The study yielded that the students were inclined to be generous with money after listening to the music they’d enjoyed. The team of scientists specifically chose the music that induced a physical response, which they termed as “the chills”. A meta-analysis of 400 different studies by psychologists at McGill University found that listening to music not only feels good for the listener but can also be used to manage stress, and even physical pain. (source)
4. Listening to music lights up the whole brain.
There are only a few activities that are capable of utilizing your entire brain and listening to music is one of them. With the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, recorded the brain responses of individuals who were listening to a piece of modern Argentinian tango. Comparison of the brain responses and the musical features revealed that listening to music recruits not only the auditory areas of the brain, but also employs large-scale neural networks. The study proved that musical features are capable of activating our emotional, motor and creative areas of the brain. (source)
5. Music can be motivating during a workout.
When we walk or run, our bodies tend to choose a particular tempo. The combination of step length and step frequency allows us to move at any given speed with as little physiological effort as possible. A series of recent studies show that we are capable of controlling the tempo, allowing us to perform better, with the help of music. Physiologists at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia used motion capture technology to determine the amount of steps an average person was taking per minute under normal circumstances.
They then fitted runners or walkers with headphones tuned to a metronome and found that they could increase or decrease volunteers’ step frequency. When the subjects were running while listening to music, they were able to continue the pace for longer periods of time; as long as the metronomic rhythm continued unaltered. This suggests that music may be one of the best ways to affect the pace of your running or walking. (source)
6. It can improve your sleep.
Music has the power to affect the quality of sleep, especially in those who have trouble sleeping. A 2008 study found that listening to classical music helped ease insomnia symptoms in college students. The NCBI reports that sleep disorders can result in fatigue, tiredness, depression and problems in daytime functioning. However, listening to music can “reduce sympathetic nervous system activity, decrease anxiety, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate and may have positive effects on sleep via muscle relaxation and distraction from thoughts”. (source)
7. Your favorite songs are capable of invoking neural nostalgia.
Have you ever wondered why you love the songs you listened to while you were young? Especially the ones you heard while you were a teenager? In general, our brain has a relationship with music. When we hear a song, it stimulates our auditory cortex and we convert the rhythms, melodies, and harmonies into a coherent whole. When you dance and sing along, the premotor cortex and parietal cortex is activated. However, when you listen to an old song, the prefrontal cortex – which maintains information relevant to your personal life and relationships – springs into action; thus triggering personal memories.
Brain imaging studies also show that your favorite songs stimulate the brain’s pleasure circuit, which releases an influx of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and other neurochemicals that make us feel good. (source)
8. Music has the ability to alter your brain structure.
Neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, refers to the brain’s ability to change throughout life. Throughout life, the brain’s plasticity changes. Studies show that the left inferior parietal cortex is larger in bilingual brains than in monolingual brains. Another study on gray matter discovered that gray matter (cortex) volume was highest in professional musicians, intermediate in amateur musicians, and lowest in non-musicians. (source)
9. Music can be medicine for your mind.
It’s a known fact that music has the ability to heal us. Now, scientists finally confirm the known fact. Studies show that music is an effective way to reduce physiological stress, anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure. One study found music can be beneficial for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Patients showed better moods, lower blood pressure, and lower heart rates when they listened to music or worked with a music therapist. Neuroscientists say that listening to your favorite tunes can reduce anxiety by up to 65%. (source)
10. When we listen to music, our heartbeat changes to mimic the rhythm.
A new study adds cardiovascular health to the list of music’s potential benefits. Luciano Bernardi, a professor of medicine at the University of Pavia in Italy and lead author on the paper published in the journal Circulation, explains that music induces a continuous, dynamic change in our cardiovascular system. Prof. Bernardi and his colleagues found that our cardiovascular and respiratory systems mirrored musical tempo. (source)
11. Sufferers of Parkinson’s disease and stroke are prescribed musical therapy.
Music therapy has been practiced for decades as a way to treat neurological conditions from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s to anxiety and depression. Advances in neuroscience and brain imaging reveal that music can trigger the release of mood-altering brain chemicals and once-lost memories and emotions. One of the most popular cases involves 60-year-old Rande Davis Gedaliah, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2003.
She suffered from leg spasms, difficulty balancing and walking, and ultimately a serious fall in the shower. Her life was becoming dependent on others and as she was about to lose hope, she turned to an oldies station on her shower radio. As soon as the music started playing, her legs started moving. It was a significant achievement for her since she hasn’t been able to control them for months. Soon after that, her balance improved, and today, she cannot stop dancing. (source)