5 Ways Music Affects the Human Brain

Not only people are able to produce melodies, but only we can so enjoy and be inspired by them (although animals also have prerequisites for this). But why does music play such an important role in our lives? How exactly do we perceive it and how does it affect our brain? Below are listed a few facts that will help us figure this out.

1. A Person Can Be Rhythm Sensitive From Birth

Scientists conducted a study to find out at what age we begin to hear music not as a collection of individual sounds but as a melody. They measured how the brains of newborns react to melodies with normal rhythm and with disturbing rhythm. It turned out that children react to this “breakdown” which becomes obvious due to changes in brain activity.

The study was small but it suggests that we have the ability to understand the rhythm of a  melody from birth. Babies can also distinguish between the duration and pitch of sounds, which also helps to perceive melodies.

2. Listening to Music Does Not Make Us Smarter

Many people wonder what kind of music children should listen to and the most popular version says that it’s classical. There is the so-called Mozart effect- a hypothesis that listening to the music of this composer boosts IQ. 

In 1993, scientists conducted the following experiment with three groups of students. The first group was given the music of Mozart to listen to, the second – relaxation instructions, and the third studied in silence. After that, the participants received a test for spatial thinking and it turned out that the results improved only for those students who listened to Mozart.

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What is wrong with this experiment? As often happens, the problem is in the mass interpretation: IQ increased by only ten minutes, and there were no long-term changes. Later it turned out that the test results improve if people listen to any melody that they like (whether it Mozart, Schubert or even a piece of an audiobook). Favorite sounds activate the central nervous system, raise mood and invigorate the mind.

3. Music Can Boost Creativity

Music will not make us smarter, but how it influences our thinking? Researchers conduct an experiment with workers of a rather creative specialty. For several weeks, employees either listened to music while working or worked in silence. Five weeks later, it turned out that, working with music, people were more productive and had more creative solutions. Other scientists have found that rather “happy” music where there are more major notes and upbeat melodies helps us to be more creative.

4. Music Reduces Stress

The habit of listening to music in order to distract from negative thoughts has a scientific explanation: it can really reduce stress and regulate mood. One possible reason for this process is that music increases self-esteem and self-confidence.

There is another explanation- abiological one. It has been proven that listening to music, regardless of style, reduces the level of cortisol a hormone that is released when experiencing difficult and stressful situations. Listening to music can also help reduce pressure, pulse and help you relax. This fact, for example, is used to reduce patient anxiety before surgery and in post-operative rehabilitation.

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5. Music Helps Exercise

Many people listen to music while doing sports and they are doing it right! Studies have shown that it enhances endurance and performance during training. One of the reasons music is effective is because it distracts us from fatigue. At the same time, podcasts and audiobooks perform the same function.

Music, especially fast music, improves mood and motivation for playing sports. Many athletes, before serious competitions, listen to music “to get in the mood” and say that it helps them recharge with confidence and focus. In addition, the rhythmic features of music help maintain the right tempo during aerobic-type workouts like running.