How Music Affects The Brain

Music is an almost universally loved phenomenon throughout humanity. And while some enjoy it more than others, and we all have our own preferences in terms of what genres we consume, music itself affects all of our brains in the same way.

When it comes right down to it, there is no absolute, scientifically-established reason as to why we enjoy music in the first place. After all, when we deconstruct it, it’s essentially just a change in notes and patterns over time. So why does it have such a profound influence on our psyche?

Foregoing any subjective explanations as to why we find certain kinds of music either enjoyable or distasteful, here is what we know regarding how music affects the brain and its neuro-chemistry.

Neuromusicology – The Interest In The Effects Of Music on The Brain

As it turns out, music has an effect on every part of the human brain, from the higher, abstract reasoning structures to the structures that handle emotion and instinct. Researchers in Finland have created a method of study that allows them to see how the brain responds to and processes various aspects of music, including rhythm, tonality, and timbre (the “color” of sound).

Not only has this study revealed a deeper insight into how the brain processes music, it’s also helped us to better understand the overall structure of brain networks in all their complexity and dynamism.

How The Study Worked

The study involved fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), in which recordings were made of various individual’s brain responses to a piece of modern Argentinian tango. Following the recordings, the experimenters used sophisticated computer algorithms to analyze the musical content of the tango – including how the tone, timbrel components, and rhythm evolved over time – and subsequently compared it to the brain responses of the listeners. This resulted in some pretty interesting revelations.

Not only does music affect the auditory areas of the brain, it also affects large-scale neural networks, including:

  • Motor areas – this gives credence to the idea that music and motion are closely linked in our minds
  • Limbic areas – these areas are associated with emotion, and were particularly affected by the rhythm and tonality of the music
  • Default mode networks – these areas are associated with daydreaming and creativity, and were affected primarily by the music’s timbre

How Music Can Be Beneficial

Listening to music can make you healthier, happier, smarter, and more productive in your life, no matter your age.

Studies out of Taiwan have revealed that listening to music you enjoy reduces depression, anxiety, pain, and fatigue, even in cancer patients. Furthermore, we can point to a patient with dementia who has lived in a nursing home for 10 years, and who routinely experiences seizures and depression. Although he is unable to recognize his own daughter, he comes to life when listening to music, expressing how much joy and meaning it brings to his life.

There Are Good Reasons To Listen To More Music, And To Enhance The Experience With The Right Equipment

If music is a big part of your life, or you want to make it so, it’s a good idea to have all of the right sound equipment so that your music comes out clear and concise, providing the optimal listening experience.