If you want to train your body you should go to the gym. Do you want to exercise your brain? Then you should listen to music. Music impacts multiple parts of the brain. Did you know that music acts on the brain similar to cocaine? Listening to music increases dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, which is the same part of the brain that acts on illegal drugs. Luckily, music can be used for more positive purposes, such as pain reduction, stress relief and a better memory.
Listening to music can bring back a memory from years ago in a second. The reason is that music evokes emotions and in turn, emotions bring back memories. For instance, an Alzheimer’s patient, who cannot recognize his wife/husband anymore, could still play the piano if he learned to play when he was younger. The physical memory will never be forgotten since playing the piano has become a muscle memory in the cerebellum.
Stress relief and pain reduction
The hypothalamus is an important part of the brain that, among other things, releases essential hormones that regulate sleep, mood, heart rate, body temperature, growth, sex drive, etcetera. Listening to calming and relaxing music, for example Mozart, reduces the level of cortisol in your body and thereby lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Furthermore, previous studies show that patients who listened to relaxing music reported significantly less pain and distress, compared to patients who did not listen to music. Consequently, music can cause stress relief and pain reduction.
Moreover, rhythmic music temporarily stops Parkinson’s disease, such that patients are able to get up and even walk. This is due to the putamen, which is the part of the brain that processes rhythm and regulates body movement and coordination. Music increases our response to rhythm, however, after the music stops, the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease come back.
Other benefits of listening to music
Music improves several other functions of your brain. For example, it stimulates the frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain that is also used when we think, make decisions or make plans. Furthermore, the broca’s area is used when someone expresses music, which improves your ability to communicate better. Another advantage of playing music is that it improves the communication between the left and right hemispheres, because playing music requires the right-hand side (intuition) and left-hand side (logit) of the brain to cooperate. This improves coordinated body movements and allows for complex thoughts that require both logic and intuition. For example, it enables the musician to translate notes on a sheet to hitting the right piston valves of the trumpet with their fingers to produce music. Lastly, music stimulates the amygdala. This part of the brain processes and triggers emotions. Therefore, music can, for instance, control your fear or increase pleasure.
One thing is sure: listening to music has positive effects on your brain. But what music is the best? That depends on your personal background and reaction to music. Everybody reacts differently to certain music. Pick the kind that works for you!
This article was written by Renske Zijm