The study of the effects of music on the mind and brain has been a subject of interest for many. The interconnection between music and the physical and mental health of human beings has been researched since long. The research has concluded that music does have positive effects on the mind and brain of human beings. Music has the power of healing certain ailments. Indian classical music has been found to have the strongest healing powers. Be it about fighting anxiety, be it about speeding the healing process, music is the answer to all the queries.
Effects of Music on the Mind
There are times when one feels depressed. Feelings of gloom and inadequacy fill one’s mind and carrying out even the daily activities becomes difficult. Depression reduces brain activity and hampers the mind’s ability to plan and execute tasks. Lack of the neurotransmitter, Serotonin, leads to a depressed state of mind. Soothing musical notes help increase the Serotonin levels of the brain, thus alleviating mental depression.
Anxiety is associated with an upcoming event that may have an unknown outcome. It may lead to sleeplessness and other anxiety disorders. Music plays a vital role in calming the nerves and soothing one’s mind. Flat musical notes induce sleep, while natural notes provide the mind with alertness.
Music is found to affect the process of learning and thinking. If work is accompanied by quiet and soothing music, it helps the listener think, analyze and work faster in a more efficient manner. Music develops a positive attitude in the listeners and provides them with motivation. Surveys have shown that music brings about remarkable improvements in the academic skills of students, who are made to listen to certain kinds of music while studying or working in the lab. Listening to pleasant music, while doing a difficult task, can make it seem easier.
Music has a positive effect on the interpersonal skills of an individual. Failures that we face in life are often the result of lack of confidence and lack of desire to learn. Students obtaining poor school grades do not necessarily lack intelligence. Their poor academic results are often an outcome of their lack of motivation and their disinterest. Music lessons during school can help the students fight their mental block. Music proves helpful in encouraging young children to venture new fields. It helps them develop the confidence needed to achieve success in life.
It has long been obvious that music affects people profoundly. What is new, though, is that research is being conducted to determine the effects of music on the brain. Through this research much has been learned about the effects of music on brain function.
It has been shown over and over again that one of the strongest effects of music on the brain is in the area of memory. Students of foreign languages were shown to be able to learn hundreds of vocabulary items in one day when listening to appropriate music. What is more, they remembered the words over time at a level of 92% retention. This feat was accomplished with the use of baroque classical music. The tempo was the most successful at a steady rate of 60 beats per minute. At this tempo, people seemed to remember the most. This was one of the interesting effects of music on the brain.
Music has a positive effect on the concentration level of the listeners. It is also found to improve one’s memory. Research has found that the silence between two musical notes triggers the brain cells and neurons, which are responsible for the development of sharp memory. Flute music, and instruments like santoor and sarod are recommended for the enhancement of concentration and memory. Strong beats cause the brain waves to resonate in synch with the beat bringing about higher levels of concentration and alertness.
Music plays a vital role in enhancing creativity. Music has a positive impact on the right side of the brain. Music triggers the brain center, which deal with the development of creativity. Certain ragas are known to activate all the chakras of the listener’s body, thus benefiting him/her in the performance of other creative tasks.
Music is found to give students the capacity to trust themselves. It provides them with an internal discipline. Rhythm is known to help the students learn math. Music stimulates the brain centers that deal with thinking, analyzing and planning, thus enhancing one’s organizational skills.
Music helps secrete endorphins that help in speeding the process of healing. It acts as an effective distraction from pain and suffering. While diverting one’s mind away from pain, it also helps bring about certain chemical processes in the brain that aid healing. After undergoing surgery, patients may be advised to undergo a music therapy. Listening to melodious, comforting music is sure to have a positive effect on the physical and mental well-being of patients.
Music and Brain Disease:
Alzheimer’s patients have also been shown to benefit mentally from listening to music. Listening to music triggered certain memories to be recalled that had been otherwise forgotten. Parkinson’s patients also benefited from the effects of music on the brain. Motor skills seemed to improve when some patients were better able to walk while music was being played.
Not all the effects of music on the brain are positive however. Some types of music can cause the brain to lose it’s symmetry between it’s right and left halves, or hemispheres. We’ve all experienced this, when trying to concentrate on a task while loud or otherwise disruptive music is being played. Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you that this can lead to learning disabilities and behavior disruptions in children. It can likewise generate diminished work capabilities in adults.
The types of music that cause these effects on the brain are mostly aggressive forms of music such as heavy rock or rap. The specific type of beat may be at fault. It could also be attributed to the fact that too much repetition leads to feelings of anger and hostility.
To achieve positive effects of music on the brain, music must have certain attributes. It needs to be fairly complex to involve more of the brain in the activity and keep the person interested. New and different music is another factor that keeps the brain active and not bored.
Grunge Music Effects:A study of the effects of different types of music found that after listening to grunge music, subjects reported increases in fatigue, tension, sadness and hostility, as well as decreased mental clarity, vigor, relaxation and compassion. However, grunge was likely not the musical preference of these subjects—a study of grunge fans may have produced different results.
Aggression:Some studies have found that individuals become more hostile, aggressive or angry after listening to heavy metal music, whereas others have found no aggressive response. Some researchers have even found that subjects who were angry to begin with become happier, calmer and more relaxed after listening to heavy metal when it is their preferred musical genre.
Suicide:Although the suicide rate is higher among rock and heavy metal fans (particularly the latter), a study of students with psychiatric disorders who were also heavy metal fans actually showed improved mood after listening to their music of choice. Other studies of depressed students have found similar results, suggesting that students may use this music to help treat their depression rather than becoming depressed as a result of listening to it.
Intelligence:Interestingly, college students whose musical preferences are alternative, rock or heavy metal actually obtain higher IQ test scores on average, particularly on questions where abstraction is required. Some studies have also found high intelligence among adolescent heavy metal listeners.
Risk Taking:Those who prefer rock or heavy metal music are more inclined to be reckless sensation seekers who take risks. This is a personality type rather than a direct effect of the music—sensation seekers have less reactive nervous systems and so it takes more intense stimuli to generate a sensation of happiness or excitement.
Risk takers are more likely to commit crimes because they are not as anxious about the consequences. This is not caused by the music however; the risk taker prefers more energetic music and more dangerous pastimes as a result of innate personality
Drug Use:Studies regarding a link between heavy metal music and drug use have generated mixed results. One study found that teenagers who listened to heavy metal were more inclined to use drugs, though they were not more likely to use them excessively or become addicted. Other researchers have found no link between music preference and drug use or drug-related values. Overall, use of alcohol and/or drugs by parents has the greatest influence on adolescent drug use.
Attitudes toward Women: A study of undergraduate men found that exposure to sexually violent heavy metal music increased the tendency to stereotype sex roles and hold more negative perceptions of women. However, this was likely the result of the sexually violent content rather than the heavy metal music itself.
By: Ejaz Aalam