Music on the Brain

Ariana Jaramillo, Political Writer

Exploring The Effects of Music on the Brain

Music is unavoidable. From the ringing of the alarm clock to the sound of a horn. With music being such a big part of our lives, it’s useful to gain an understanding of its effects on the brain in order to take advantage of its benefits. The most important benefit of all: keeping the brain healthy.

When it comes to cognitive development, music is an important tool, specifically when learning how to play musical instruments and reading music. “Singing or playing a musical instrument requires sustained, focused attention, with many musicians also learning how to read music, a complex activity, like learning a language,” shared Dr. Christina Chin-Newman, a professor of Human Development and Women’s Studies at the California State University, East Bay.

There are other lifelong tools that are acquired through studying music as well, such as hand-eye coordination, motor skills, and communication skills. “Good verbal and nonverbal communication is needed in order to successfully perform with other musicians,” said Chin-Newman.

A creative spark ignites in the brain when music is involved. “All musicians learn how to interpret music with dynamics in order to convey emotional meaning, and some also exercise their creative thinking by improvising or composing music,” included Chin-Newman.

Since music is expressive, it can be used as an outlet for difficult emotions. Research shows that music can help reduce stress, anxiety, and other symptoms related to mental health. “When I went through a break-up I created a playlist that helped me express how I felt in order to start the healing process. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one who had gone through these emotions and situations helped me feel better,” said Melisa Duarte, a student at CSUEB.

There are many social and bonding opportunities that music can bring. “I met my best friend at a Harry Styles concert, where we connected when we were singing one of his songs together in the bathroom before the show started,” shared Hailey Anderson, another CSUEB student.

The benefits of music extend to treating neurodegenerative diseases as well, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. “Usually in the late stages, Alzheimer’s patients are unresponsive, but once you put in the headphones that play [their favorite] music, their eyes light up. They start moving and sometimes singing. The effect lasts maybe 10 minutes or so even after you turn off the music,” said Dr. Kiminobu Sugaya, professor of Neuroscience at the University of Central Florida.

To learn more about the effects of music on the brain click here.