Music does not just lighten our mood, comfort us or give us inspiration. Its action affects a variety of areas of the brain – and, according to neuroscientists, it even allows you to change their structure.
Since ancient times, people have attributed miraculous abilities to music. The ancient Egyptians believed that it helps from snakebites.
According to one legend, the Italian musical style and tarantella dance was originally a popular healing remedy among the people: its rhythms were believed to help get rid of the poison of tarantulas. Gradually, superstition was replaced by scientific knowledge.
Today, music is quite consciously used by psychologists, psychotherapists, teachers and doctors in their practice.
Why You Must Love Music
Research by neuroscientists helps to understand why playing music is a universal tool for keeping our brain in good shape.
Here are 3 reasons to love good songs.
1. Good Songs Restore Lost Abilities
Sometimes singing about something is literally easier than saying it in words. This applies to cases where a brain injury leads to impaired speech.
The writer and popularizer of science, Elena Mannes, in the book The Power of Music, gives the story of a man who, after a stroke, lost his ability to speak.
He literally had to learn the language again. During rehabilitation therapy, it turned out that it was much easier for him to master phrases if he sang them, and did not pronounce them.
This method is known as melodic-intonation therapy – when it is used, the right hemisphere of the brain is involved, while the center of speech in most people is concentrated in the left. Researchers say
Interestingly, the ability to perceive music persists in the most difficult cases – even when a person ceases to recognize other people and loses memory.
“Only in very rare cases do those who have suffered a brain injury lose their ability to enjoy music,” wrote neuropsychologist Oliver Sachs.
“The influence of music on our brain is enormous, and even now we do not quite imagine this mechanism. It’s not just about cognitive abilities.
For example, to people with the effects of encephalitis, who were almost paralyzed, music increased their ability to dance. Almost all areas of the brain are involved in the perception of music. Therefore, its effect is so universal. ”
2. Music Help Train Our Brain
So, with the help of music, you can “teach” an injured brain to familiar things again. But can music change a healthy brain?
Studies show that music lessons are especially important in early childhood .
Neurologist and pianist Fredrik Ullen explains that at an early age, white matter and the pyramidal tract are formed – the area responsible for the coordination of movements.
For example, for pianists who began to practice before ten years old, this zone was better developed. Ullen tazhke notes that similar changes are observed in athletes and ballet dancers.
“Music alone does not make us smarter,” explains Canadian psychologist Sylvain Moreno.
“However, it affects a variety of abilities, which, in turn, make us more sensitive to the perception of information.”
Moreno’s group conducted a study with two groups of children. The first participated in a 40-hour musical training program, which included working with rhythm, tone, melody and voice.
The second group went through a similar program, but focused on working with visual material (perception of color, composition, artistic images).
Then the children from both groups were tested. It turned out that the group of “musicians” coped better with the tasks of concentration, attention and the ability to quickly master new information(2).
Moreno notes that musical literacy allows us to expand our “cognitive stock” – a set of mental strategies that allow us to find new and innovative solutions to problems.
3. Interesting Songs Keep Us Young
For those who practice music, the brain ages more slowly . In older people, the neural connections responsible for the perception and processing of sound signals are weakened.
The signal goes slower – and the person often asks again, does not immediately answer the question, cannot distinguish a familiar voice from the general noise.
Studies at Northwestern University (USA) showed that in musicians in adulthood, areas related to sound transmission acted almost as well as in young people (3).
Does this mean that rock legends like Mick Jagger, who, even in their seventies, emit energy and youthful charm, intuitively guessed the rejuvenating secret of music?
And yet, why music? Why even the contemplation of magnificent paintings or, say, calligraphy classes can not be compared with melodic sounds and fiery rhythms?
The opinions of experts agree on one thing: when we listen to or make music, our whole brain moves. Music as if spreads over it, penetrating into various corners.
When we listen to a work, sing, tap a rhythm, dance or play an instrument, our neurons arrange a real disco. Electrical activity passes from one section to another, and thus the bonds between them are strengthened.
This gives many advantages: the exchange of information becomes faster, and the number of neurons that are involved in this exchange increases.
Such changes are observed even in those adults who begin to learn late.
So if you absolutely do not want to get rid of the old piano, you have a legitimate reason to leave it – and turn it into a laboratory to study the capabilities of your brain.
1. “Music therapy for acquired brain injury”, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2010, July 7 online publication.
2. “Short-Term Music Training Enhances Verbal Intelligence and Executive Function”, Psychological Science, November, 2011, vol. 22, No. 11.
3. “Musical experience offsets age-related delays in neural timing”, Neurobiology of Aging, 2012, vol. 33, No. 7.