We listen to music for entertainment, to relax, and as a way to connect with other people. Until recently, scientists didn’t have a clear understanding of what music actually does to our brains.
Music affects many different areas of the human brain
In the early nineties when functional brain imaging technology became widely available, scientists began to learn about how music affects the human brain. Our brains respond very differently to sad and happy music. In fact, after listening to sad music participants of one study were more likely to interpret neutral facial expressions as sad. The same was true of happy music. Even though it’s merely a perceived emotion, the tone of the music has a great effect on how the listener sees the world.
Music affects every major computational center of the brain. The amygdala interprets and regulates emotional reactions to music with the help of the nucleus accumbens. The auditory cortex handles the first stages of listening to music by analyzing tones. The motor cortex and sensory cortex offer tactile feedback from playing instruments. The hippocampus holds music in the memory and gives it context.
Listening to music is a great way to activate many regions of the brain simultaneously, which may be one of the reasons that it is so beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s Disease. Even music in the form of moderate ambient noise can boost creativity and increase the ability to solve problems.
Music offers important insights into personality traits
One study conducted on young adults as they were getting to know each other measured compatibility by assessing general personality traits through corresponding musical tastes. The personality traits included emotional stability, agreeableness, extraversion, openness to experience, and conscientiousness.
Volunteers for the study rated their preferences for 104 musical styles and then completed a test focused on various aspects of personality. For example, people who prefer to listen to rap music were outgoing and had high self-esteem. Opera fans were gentle and creative. Chart pop fans were hard working, gentle, and outgoing.
Music helps young brains develop better reasoning skills
Learning to play an instrument activates a wide variety of areas of the brain. Young people who work hard to master an instrument also develop better reasoning skills, are better at analyzing visual information, and have better vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills. One study showed that learning to play a musical instrument for even three years provides a lifetime of benefits. Kids with at least three years of musical training consistently scored higher than their non-musically trained counterparts on tests measuring fine motor skills and auditory discrimination abilities.
Music helps stroke victims recover
Compared with silence and white noise, music provided the best results in the rehabilitation of stroke victims in one scientific study. The improved visual attention of patients listening to classical music who were recovering from a stroke was notable. Silence produced the lowest scores in this particular study.
Music is a powerful force on the human brain. Associations from the past offer the kind of strong emotional connection for listeners that can have an immediate, positive, and lasting effect on outlook and mood. For people with Alzheimer’s Disease, music therapy offers meaningful and effective relief from symptoms that are exhausting and devastating.
To learn more about the connections between music and quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s Disease, please contact us. Sevens Residential Memory Care offers specialized care in an innovative setting designed to resemble home. Call today for a tour.