Everybody loves to listen to “good” music to either serve as a boost on a tough day, to keep them awake during a long ride, to purge a negative feeling or for simple fun and excitement amongst the many reasons.
One of the very few activities that activates, stimulates and makes good use of the entire brain is music. The ability to process music is complex and this is where we get a little technical; Music is transported via the auditory nerve to the auditory cortex. The right side of the cortex perceives pitch, melody, harmony, and timbre. The left side of the cortex processes changes in frequency and intensity. Both sides are needed for rhythm, as in differentiating time signatures.
The hippocampus differentiates between styles of music. Frontal cortex perceives other aspects of melody and rhythm; patterns of neural activity are affected by music. With these many parts at work, it’s not surprising that ‘musical chills’, which triggers the release of the feel-good chemical “dopamine” is induced by music as proven by researchers.
“There’s a very wide range of reactions in the body and mind to music, and brain imaging studies have shown that various parts of the brain may be activated by a piece of music,” says Dr. Victoria Williamson, lecturer in psychology at Goldsmith’s College, London.
A study at Brunel University in West London has also shown that music can help increase endurance by as much as 15%, helping to lower the perception of effort during exercise, as well as increasing energy efficiency by between 1% to 3%.
Brain parts responsible for aspects, such as memory and vision, can “lighten up” in response to music that excites and makes you feel good. It acts as a stimulus to awaken buried memories or evoke quick emotional responses that may take weeks to achieve with talking therapies. The activity in regions of the brain, and the cerebral cortex, are heightened win this process.
Paris-based clinical psychologist, Brigitte Forgeot explains that by helping the brain cortex to generate specific brain waves, we can induce different states of alertness, depending on what we aim to do. “If we’re feeling anxious we can encourage our cerebral cortex to produce slow alpha-frequency brain waves, while on the other end of the scale, if we help our cortex to produce faster beta waves, we will be better equipped to concentrate and focus our attention on a fairly lengthy task.”
Let’s all take time to listen to any music of our choice. Keep in mind that “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ~ Berthold Auerbach.