Music exerts a profound influence on human life, touching upon various aspects such as emotional well-being, memory recall, learning enhancement, happiness elevation, and overall quality of life.

The impact of music on the human brain is a subject of fascination, underscored by compelling findings from a survey conducted by AARP, which illuminates its significant effects on emotions and cognitive functions. Central to its influence is music’s ability to reduce anxiety and enhance mental well-being among listeners.

Key findings from the AARP survey include:

  • Respondents who regularly attend musical performances reported higher levels of brain health, with 69% rating their cognitive well-being as excellent or very good, compared to 58% for past attendees and 52% for non-attendees.
  • Exposure to music during childhood appears to facilitate learning, with 68% of those who were exposed to music at a young age indicating ease in acquiring new knowledge, compared to 50% among those not exposed to music.

These insights underscore the multifaceted benefits of music, highlighting its role not only as a source of enjoyment but also as a catalyst for cognitive vitality and emotional resilience.

How does music change your brain?

If we believed that the only means of communication for human beings was language, we are very far from reality. Music is a communication tool in the human being that generates a clear effect on cognitive functions and the brain. But, how does it act and what is the relationship between music in the brain? Let’s understand in the following blog.

Music in the brain of a child:

From a very early age, human beings develop a kind of innate musical grammar, and this plays an important role in emotional, cognitive, and social development in the first days of life.

Children form robust neural connections when exposed to music from a young age, enhancing their cognitive abilities such as learning, spatial reasoning, and overall capabilities.

Research conducted at the University of Southern California underscores the pivotal role of music in child development, impacting crucial skills like reading, language acquisition, and mathematical aptitude.

Integral to every child’s life, music facilitates the mastery of self-expression and emotional regulation. Ultimately, music enriches the lives of all individuals, providing enjoyment and fulfillment across the human experience.

So much so, that it has been shown that newborns already have the development of specific systems of the right hemisphere for the processing of musical information.

This has been confirmed in studies that, using functional magnetic resonance imaging, have examined the brain activity of 1- and 3-day-old newborns while they listened to music excerpts and then altered versions of them.

Brain areas involved:

Although we may think that the journey of music through our brain is simple, it goes a long way in several areas.

From the eardrum, it goes to the brain stem, from there to the midbrain, and continues its journey to the medial geniculate body or auditory thalamus, which connects this information with the auditory cortex of the temporal lobe.

This area is responsible for reducing the background noise of what we hear and modulating the sound, focusing on the characteristics of the isolated tones.

How does music act in the brain? Key structures:

The involvement of music in our brain encompasses many areas. Now, how does music act on the brain? What is the relationship between music and the brain?

– Rostromedial prefrontal cortex: This area shows different levels of activation depending on pitch and rhythm. In such a way that when we listen to a melody, the prefrontal cortex is activated, also processing the emotional part.

– Right temporal lobe: Related to basic sound processing, the right hemisphere registers the rhythm and emotional tone when we communicate. In people with epileptic seizures who had to undergo a surgical operation, where part of this lobe had to be removed, it was observed that they began to have serious problems in perceiving melodies. This same operation on the left lobe did not have such consequences.

– Limbic system: Those brain regions that are related to the recognition of rhythm or melody are linked to the emotional part that governs such a system. Likewise, this emotional part involves the striatal dopaminergic system. This limbic system is connected to areas related to memory, such as the sensory cortex, or supramarginal gyrus.

Why does music move us?

Once in the auditory cortex, the music proceeds to the limbic system, and from the thalamus, there are some projections to the medial orbitofrontal cortex and the amygdala. This area is par excellence the control structure of emotions, regulating the response of pleasure or displeasure to certain stimuli.

Therefore, depending on the type of music we listen to, we experience a series of emotions or others. For example, in a suspense or horror movie, music generally causes us anguish or, on the contrary, when faced with a great soundtrack we can get emotional.

Benefits of Music Listening:

Engaging with music holds significant importance in human lives, fostering cherished memories while enhancing overall health and well-being. Music serves as a powerful stress reducer, offering solace and mood elevation during challenging times. Specific genres or melodies have the potential to inspire and drive individuals towards achieving particular goals.

By instilling positivity, music enables clear expression of thoughts and emotions, fostering mental clarity and emotional balance. Through its transformative power, music has the ability to shift moods from sorrowful to joyful, evoking nostalgic sentiments.

Listening to music can activate cognitive functions, aiding in the management and recovery of mental illnesses by triggering neurochemicals such as dopamine for pleasure and cortisol for stress regulation.

Moreover, music facilitates the release of oxytocin, promoting interpersonal connections and enhancing social bonds. Furthermore, it contributes to the regulation of serotonin levels and other immunity-related hormones, thereby supporting overall well-being.

In summary, music holds significant sway over human behavior and brain functionality. It serves as a conduit for goal attainment while individuals indulge in their favorite melodies.

Furthermore, music plays a pivotal role in mitigating mental disorders, eliciting dopamine release for pleasure, alleviating stress and depression, and enhancing spatial reasoning, motor skills, and cognitive functions. Embedded within human culture, music remains an enduring asset, continually enriching the human experience.