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Effects of Music on the Brain and How to Gain From It

Mazlan has a passion for health and fitness. He enjoys yoga, cycling, home workouts, and healthy food.

Discover the benefits of music on body, mind, relationships & more

Discover the benefits of music on body, mind, relationships & more

What Does Music Do to the Brain

The effect of music on the brain and mind was extensively studied in the past. In several instances, they showed many beneficial effects. These studies also include the effects of classical music on brain development, and on memory.

This article shares some of the developments and researches in this area. It also explains how you too, can benefit from it.

Music in Disorders of Consciousness

What is Disorder of Consciousness?

This is a medical condition that impairs your ability for self-awareness and the interaction with environmental stimuli such as when you are in a coma, vegetative state, or in a minimally conscious state.

Effects of Music on Coma Patients

In a study by Jens D. Rollnik and Eckart Altenmüller using music therapy for patients with coma and other disorders of consciousness, they found music induces the patient's neuronal networks and emotional processes in the brain.

The results are even more positive when the patients listened to their favorite songs.

These were presented at the meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness in Brighton, UK. in July 2012.

How does music affect the brain and emotions?

How does music affect the brain and emotions?

Music and Memory Recall

In another study, Fabien Perrin of Lyon University, France, concluded that listening to your favorite music can trigger autobiographical memory, which can then triggers another stimulus.

In other words, listening to your favorite music can bring back that hidden information in your brain. It helps to recall the information that you need at that instance.

He also concluded that it is possible for music to enhance awareness, thus increasing the consciousness level.

These experiments were conducted on two subjects in a coma, one in a marginally conscious condition, and one in a vegetative condition.

How to Benefit From This?

If listening to your favorite music enhances awareness, memory and increases the consciousness level, then do this on a daily basis. This can increase your focus level, gives a better recall of information, and be more attentive. It will lead to better assimilation of information.

Does Music Increases Productivity?

One of the effects of music on the brain is an increase in productivity. This subject was extensively researched.

August 11, 2012, edition of the New York Times reported that if you are losing focus, listen to music.

Is your surrounding ambiance too noisy or too quiet? Or, you are doing repetitive works and it bores you? Then put on the headphone and listen to the music.

Dopamine Rush From Music

Dr. Amit Sood of Mayo Clinic states that when people’s mind wanders, music can bring them back into focus. Harmonious sounds such as music can release dopamine.

Dopamine can mean many things but basically, it is a chemical released by the body's nerve cells that send signals to other nerve cells to invoke desire, happiness, lust, motivation, addiction and etc.

Dr. Sood added that it takes only 15 minutes to 30 minutes of listening time to reclaim your lost concentration or focus. The best music to trigger this is instrumental music.

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Effects of Music on Mood

In another study on the effect of music on the brain, personnel working on software design were monitored on their work quality and time-on-task performance.

Dr. Teresa Lesiuk of the University of Windsor, Canada, found that music improved the workers' mood and they can take in more workloads. They complete their tasks quicker than those that didn’t listen to music. It also drives up their creativity level and came up with better work ideas.

Music Improves Productivity for Some People

The study also found that workers who are moderately skilled will benefit the most while the experts gained little or none at all. But a novice who is struggling to learn the skill finds music a distraction! The older workers, however, will spend less time listening to music at the workplace, preferring a quieter surrounding.

So, music does increase productivity for some people and if your team comprises mostly of semi-skilled or moderately skills, you will benefit from playing music in the workplace.

Despite these benefits, not many companies allow workers to listen to music at the workplace. They claimed it block out interactions and workers will not be fully engaged.

To Benefit: Listen to your favorite music - esp. instrumental music, to make you more attentive and to give better productivity. Get your supervisor's permission and explain the benefits. Better still, forward this article for reference.

Music for Baby Brain Development

The University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) played music to thirty-nine 9-month old babies in twelve 15-minute play sessions over a 1-month period to see if music can help babies with speech rhythms.

The study found babies that were exposed to music during the play sessions had improved their ability to detect patterns in sounds, which correlates to speech rhythms, hence their speech learning.

They also found that early exposure to music can enhance the child's development of perceptual skills and cognitive skills.

Music Training in Childhood

In another study by Northwestern University, an adult that had some form of musical training during their childhood responded better to complex sounds. This research was published in the August 22 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

This early exposure to music enhances memory and attention span, speech, and language skills. The most important aspect of this early exposure to music is the ability to express their emotions vocally. This skill is crucial in any healthy relationship.

Benefits of Music in Preschool

Since music can evoke movements and the melodic rhythm will engage a child's brain, many preschools introduce music to teach alphabet, languages, listening skills, and to improve memory.

Do you still remember your nursery rhymes and the ABC song? I bet you do, proving the strong connection between music and memory.

Music is also another way for a child to express feelings and to release their emotions. They also love to sing and dance, which indirectly develops their motor skills.

How To Benefits - Play soft background music when your child is around, and if you can afford it, send them to music classes. However, the effects of music on the brain are powerful even for infants so do not overexposed and limit it to only an hour a day.


Music Therapy for Premature Infants

Premature babies that are exposed daily to 30-minutes of Mozart's music can grow and gain weight faster than premature babies not exposed to this music. They also leave the intensive care unit earlier.

Mozart's music is also highly repetitive, which makes it better than Bach, Beethoven, or Bartók. This was observed by researchers at Tel Aviv Medical Centre, a division of Tel Aviv University.

In another study by Friederike Barbara Haslbeck, creative music therapy can be beneficial for premature infant stabilization and relaxation. It also helps the parent's self-confidence and quality of interactions with the babies.

Listening to mother or nurse humming also shows positive results so, do this often.

How To Benefit: Get a certified and trained music therapist to help you with this music therapy for premature infants. Or just hum a lullaby.

Dyslexia Rhythm and Music

There are several studies and neuroscientific works of literature that support the use of music therapy to treat children with dyslexia.

In this new study by Michel Habib, Chloé Lardy, Tristan Desiles, Céline Commeiras, Julie Chobert, Mireille Besson published in 2016, a specially-designed Cognitivo-Musical Training (CMT) was introduced to dyslexic children.

CMT method is based on three principles:

  1. To improve brain circuits which are common to music and language processes
  2. To use the temporal and rhythmic features of music to aid dyslexic children process auditory information and develop appropriate listening and language skills
  3. Cross-modal integration

These specially developed series of musical exercises will simultaneously involve the visual, auditory, somatosensory, and motor systems.

Dyslexia and Listening to Music

The study revealed significant improvements in their speech, reading abilities, and repetition of pseudo-words. Hence, providing additional arguments to support the use of music to treat dyslexic children.

(Note: A pseudoword is a fake word, usually a string of letters that resembles a real word and doesn't exist in the language. Examples are sark, lan, heth, nep, rop, shep, spet).

Music and Alzheimer

Alzheimer's patients can be difficult to handle. They get aggressive and fights can occur. But the right type of music has shown to calm them and reduce confusion and aggressiveness.

Does Music Affect Blood Pressure?

Yes, it does. One of these studies by researchers at Florence University, Italy noted that listening to classical music, Indian raga music, or Celtic music once a day for a month can lower blood pressure.

Their findings were presented at the American Society of Hypertension 23rd Annual Scientific Meeting and Exposition in 2008.

Music Therapy and Blood Pressure

As you listened to these kinds of music, your body feels more relaxed. There's an increased uptake of oxygen by the heart, thus lowering the blood pressure.

Following a heart bypass surgery, most patients will experience erratic changes in their blood pressure, and medication is administered to control this condition. In some medical centers, they play background music to help soothes the patient's nerves. This helps lowers the drug dosage.

Relaxing Harp Music to Lower Blood Pressure

I recently read about a therapeutic harpist visiting hospitals to distract and calm patients that are going through painful treatments.

Harp music helps patients to relax, fall asleep, and lower their heart rate. In some instances, these patients took fewer painkillers after listening to harp music.

So, I decided to buy one of these harp music - Purple Flowers by Peder B. Helland. The eloquently soothing sound is peaceful and can make you fall asleep.

If you have hyperactive kids or even active pets these harp melodies will definitely quiet them down or even drift them off to sleep. I recommend you listen with scented candles on.

Does Music Improve Athletic Performance?

In one study, people who listen to music with a clear and steady beat while on the treadmill had an increase in their performance by 15%. Their heart muscle worked better than those that did not.

Music for Athletes

Dr. Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist with Brunel University noted that it also calms the nerves by 10%, which helps increase athletics' performance. He also suggests that if you are into running, listen to music with 85 to 95 bpm (as in rap music) or 170-190 bpm (as in rock or thrash metal music).

If you need motivational music to push you harder, then choose songs with positive, affirmative lyrics. To reach your new target, choose music at a faster bpm than your usual beat.

Many sport-persons used music to their advantage. One example is Pitcher Trevor Hoffman of the San Diego Padres, who listened to AC/DC to get him psyched up for the game,

How to Benefits: If you want to increase your athletics’ performance forget the drugs and steroids, just listen to music. It is legal, cheaper, and has no side effects!

How Music Affects Mood

While there are several studies on the effects of music on the brain to boost athletic performance, improves productivity, lower blood pressure, cognitive skills for children, etc. this study by Rachel S. Herz and Elizabeth D. Cahill is different.

It looks at how men and women respond to various sensory stimuli (smell, vision, touch, and hearing) that will impact their sexual activity. One of these stimuli is music and the study found the following interesting responses:

  • Music is the least arousing sensory experience for men but gets turned on by sexual sounds (smell and vision are also high on men's list).
  • Whereas women ranked music highly.

In another study by William B. Mitchell, Patricia Marten Dibartolo, Timothy A. Brown and David H. Barlow, men who listened to sad music are not easily aroused as men who listened to happy music. Happy music, for women, put them in that right mood!

Music, as mentioned earlier helps release dopamine, the pleasure hormone, and it also releases serotonin, another neurotransmitter that regulates our mood. That’s why music can play a big part to put you in that mood.

Outcome: If happy music can increase both man and woman's libido, turn it on if you want to set the mood.

Classical Music and Brain Development

One of the most promising studies on the effects of music on the brain is the impact of classical music, especially baroque music.

Mozart's music and most Baroque music are on a 60bpm pattern. This pattern activates both the right and left brain. This simultaneous action of the right and left brain enhances and maximizes the activities that you are doing such as learning. In other words, your brain's capability to process this information is further enhanced.

Classical Music and Cognitive Tasks

Our brain with billions of nerve cells is divided into two hemispheres. Most people will use the right hemisphere to process any form of 'musical appreciation. However, there will be an interplay of both sides when we listened to music.

Researchers also found that brain cells light up at every single beat of the music you are listening to - even in other brain regions that control emotion and movement.

That's the reason why you feel emotion from the melody or lyrics. It may prompt you to sing along or just hymn to the tune. Sometimes, you may want to dance or just tap your feet to the rhythm.

Music Therapy in Your Home

Let's look at other ways how you can benefit and apply some of the above ideas in your home.

To Increase Focus and Concentration

Play slow Baroque music, as background music while your children study, or when they are reading to increase their attention span, improves memory and retention level to expand their thinking skills.

To Increase Productivity

Play recordings of nature's sounds such as sea waves or rain as background music to increase your productivity, energize your kids when they are bored with their daily activities, and during your relaxation exercise.

To Solve Problem

Play Mozart music when you are in a problem-solving or goal-setting mood. Or when your child is busy brainstorming on his or her school project.

Negative Effect of Music on the Brain

Dr. John Diamond in his book 'Your Body Doesn't Lie' wrote of his experience with rock music and the link between music and the body muscle's strength and weakness. He concluded that the irregular beats and shrill frequencies in rock music can be harmful to one's body.

High-Pitched Sounds

In another study by Dr. Earl W. Flosdorf and Dr. Leslie A. Chambers, proteins that are in liquid form can coagulate when exposed to piercing high-pitched sounds. Will this happen to your brain?

Professor Brad Bushman of Psychology & Communication Studies at Michigan University says aggressive music and lyrics can manipulate a child's judgment psychologically.

Aggressive behaviors are caused by many factors and not by listening to 'aggressive music'. Children will react differently to ‘aggressive music’ but can leave a negative impact on their minds.

So, let them listen if they want, only in moderation.

Psychological Effects of Music on the Brain

So now you know how powerful the psychological effects of music on the brain. On how people used music as a form of therapy to increase productivity, to promote emotional well-being, to put them in the right mood, and to help patients cope with psychological problems and stress.

Music can improve focus and memory, help relax the mind, energize the body for improved athletic performance, and help manage pain.

Benefits of Music on Our Brain and Mind

The many positive effects of music on the brain far outweigh its negative impact. Different people will react differently but generally, music does have a profound effect on people. So, let's benefit from it.

In my other article, I wrote about how some companies played music to increase plant yield. You can read it here.

Additional References

1. Music On Babies Brain Development - Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, University of Washington

2. How Adult Brain Is Shaped by Music Training in Childhood - Journal of NeuroScience

3. Music in Disorders of Consciousness - NCBI

4. Music and Disorders of Consciousness: Emerging Research, Practice and Theory

5. The effect of music listening on work performance - Sage Journals

6. The psychological functions of music listening - NCBI

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2012 Mazlan A


LindaCH on February 21, 2018:

Just to share my experience of using slow classical music on my premature baby son and it helps him recover and discharged faster. Same baby next to him was discharged only 10days later. I suggest parents to try this simple, cheap but effective way to help your premature baby

Mazlan A (author) from Malaysia on September 15, 2012:

Thank you to all, for dropping by and commenting

@leahlefler: Exposure to music at an early age are shown to be beneficial and I am sure you kids will thank you for that

@Robert: Try the music therapy when you study for your MBA and share your experience writing a hub

@rfmoran: Thanks for sharing your story. Did your nieces played any classical music on those visits?

@M. Dasgupta : Thanks for the compliments and I am glad you found them useful

@manthy: Thank you for the compliment and votes

@Om: You're right, music is truly amazing

@suzettenaples : Thanks and I'm glad you enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for the Share.

@spartucusjones : No one thing can be applied to everyone. I am glad you agree that different types of music are suited for different types of activities.

@teaches12345 : it is amazing how a simple act of listening to certain music can help us in so many ways. Thanks for dropping by and reading

Dianna Mendez on September 13, 2012:

Good to know that music helps brain development and adds to our enjoyment of life. I do enjoy music and find it relaxing. Good to know how it helps with so many common ailments too.

CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on September 13, 2012:

Very informative hub! I also agree that different types of music are suited for different types of activities.

Mark from Alabama,USA on September 12, 2012:

This is the good stuff man, voted up & awesome

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on September 12, 2012:

Wonderful article! Interesting and informative. I believe music can do so much to enhance our lives and make them better. I loved this article. Voted up and sharing!

Om Paramapoonya on September 12, 2012:

I have heard a lot about how music can improve focus, memory and relaxation, but never knew it could also lower blood pressure and help premature babies grow! That is truly amazing. Thanks for this wonderful hub, greatstuff!

Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on September 12, 2012:

A wonderful hub, voted up and awesome. Halfway through I clicked onto a baroque music station. I feel better already! Thank you for your serious research and a well written piece. My mother, who suffered from Alzheimer's, would come alive when my classical musician nieces came to visit. Voted up and awesome.

Robert Erich from California on September 12, 2012:

This is another fantastic article. I have heard that music can truly play a huge role in our lives (both positively and negatively). It's incredible how music can touch us at a depth that few other things can.

Leah Lefler from Western New York on September 12, 2012:

What an interesting hub, greatstuff! This makes me glad we are pursuing music lessons with my children. It really develops a child's language and math abilities.

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