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How Does Music Affect Our Biology?

By Alma Erro | October 18th, 2021

Music has multifaceted effects on our brain as it can stimulate physical movement, activate various brain regions and boost our mood.

When researchers first started exploring the effects of music on human behavior, they discovered the ‘Mozart Effect.’ Researchers found that listening to Mozart brought about an increased capacity to grasp the relationship of space between objects and other elevated cognitive abilities, lasting 10 to 15 minutes. This was later found to be the result of Mozart boosting listeners’ mood and arousal, or, their state of physiological alertness and readiness for action. The ‘Mozart Effect’ not only led to a surge of parents playing Mozart for their babies, but it also unlocked a mystery researchers would continue to explore for decades to come.  

This is just one example of the way music can benefit the brain. Music is so much a part of our lives, and researchers have found that it is an evolutionary adaptation that has improved our chances of survival and development. With the development of technology such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other imaging tools, scientists came to understand even more about the significance of music. Now, research has shown that music actually has all kinds of great therapeutic effects on the brain, regardless of its style or genre.  

Your Brain Thinks Music Is Your Friend

Music is a stimulant, lighting up many different parts of the brain at once. In fact, studies have found that the only other time that so many parts of the brain are activated is during social situations

When you hear the music as sound waves, it activates the auditory cortex, the place in the brain that processes sound information.  

Music often makes people move in some way, whether that is in the form of dancing or just tapping along to the rhythm. When you move along to a piece of music, you activate the cerebellum, which plays an important role in movement. 

Whether you have heard the music before or not, it also activates the hippocampus, where short-term memory is registered before becoming a long-term memory, allowing us to remember things and use our past experiences to help us make decisions in the future.

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And music activates the amygdala, a part of the brain involved with emotional responses. This activation is what causes people to feel intense emotion because of music

Music often makes us feel good, which activates various parts of our reward system, releasing the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine, also known as the happiness hormone, is involved with motivation and reward, and serotonin is thought to regulate happiness, mood and anxiety.  

Benefits For Your Work?

Music has many benefits that could potentially help you within your work. Studies have shown that listening to music that you like may enhance one’s spatial awareness, not to mention process information faster and even boost creativity. Learning to play music has strong benefits in music processing and cognitive abilities.

Benefits for You

Music has the ability to increase people’s mood. A survey done by AARP shows that people who listen to music have slightly higher scores on average on their general mental well-being and that music has small but beneficial effects on people’s mental well-being, mitigating both anxiety and depression. 

It increases our self awareness. One study showed that music causes the default mode network (DMN) to increase activity. The DMN is a series of brain networks that become more active when you are paying inward attention, which could be the reason why people often spontaneously find themselves thinking about something personal.

It can even make us more empathic: In 2018, an experiment found that musical training influences and increases the ability to recognize other people’s emotions.

Music as a Form of Treatment

Since music affects so much of the brain and evokes such a strong human response, there are many treatments in which music could be involved. Researchers from Harvard Medical School claim that music has the potential to contribute to the treatment of behavioral illnesses such as depression and anxiety, chronic pain, addiction, Parkinson’s and even autism.  This hypothesis is on the basis of the brain activation caused by music, and the dopamine and serotonin released with it. Treatments involving music are on the rise and have a clear place in medicine. They said “Music, in particular, occupies a place both in our universal human history as well as in our personalized medical future.

Any Kind of Music is Good

While music is an impressive tool that has the potential to benefit many different aspects of our lives, research about its impact on human biology is still limited.   

The duration of music needed to benefit your brain and the frequency of listening to music has not yet been determined. But what researchers do know is that, contrary to what was initially believed, you don’t need to listen to only Mozart to benefit your brain: Any genre can yield the cognitive benefits of music, the important thing is that you are enjoying what you are listening to. 

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