Think of the last time you sang with reckless abandon to a song on the radio, cried when the melody that reminded you of a moment in time came on, or got chills during a concert. These are undeniably physical and emotional reactions to something seemingly abstract: music.
As it turns out, music can restructure the brain, impact its every mapped region, and even help people learn to communicate again after traumatic brain injury!
Music is a human universal. Cultures in all corners of the planet express themselves with music in some form or another. But why is this? Is music just something beautiful that humans tend to like? Is there something going on at a much deeper level that draws us to music?
With technology that allows us to monitor the minute changes in our body and look into our brain as we experience, play, and improvise, scientists are able to see exactly how music affects the brain and the body!
Yes, music is not only a universal part of human culture, but it also has a profound impact on us at a neurologic level.
Studies have found that children who have musical training are able to more accurately process sound, which can help with speech, literacy, and reading skills. 1 One study even saw structural brain changes after only 15 months of musical training! 2
Not to mention the long term impact musical training has on the adult brain. Adults with musical training, even a moderate amount of 4-14 years, saw fewer degenerative effects of aging on the brain up to 40 years after they stopped playing! 3
These are just some of the many impacts music has on our brain. To take us on a journey through our own brains, we have this great video to share with you from WIRED. They have a great series called Tech Effects that looks at the ways in which technology is having an influence on us on some fundamental levels.
Let’s check out how scientists are looking into our brains at how deeply music affects us!
I mentioned before the video that this piece is a part of the larger Tech Effects series. If you’re interested in watching more from that series you can head over to their channel! You can also check out another Tech Effects video in our piece about videogames and the brain:
So, the next time you’re at a concert or enjoying your music solo on the train, take a look at the person next to you. If they are bopping along to the music, you’ll know you’re sharing a feeling ingrained in our biology.
Whether you are a casual listener or a life long musician, we are connected, at a fundamental level, by how music affects the brain.
It doesn’t matter if we are moved by Mozart, dance to some disco, or weep to Whitney Huston, our reactions to all music is a form of common language.
We can stand next to people with different backgrounds, life stories, and languages and find commonalities through music. Knowing that these reactions don’t just anecdotally connect us, but are, indeed a part of our biology is incredible.
If you’d like to learn a little more about music and the brain, check out a few of these articles we’ve written on the subject. They are sure to give you a greater appreciation for your favorite band. And who knows, they might just encourage you to pick up an instrument yourself!
Listen on, friends!
Stay beautiful & keep laughing!
When was the last time music moved you?
- Gersema, Emily. “Children’s Brains Develop Faster with Music Training.” USC News, University of Southern California, 23 June 2016, news.usc.edu/102681/childrens-brains-develop-faster-with-music-training/. Accessed 23 Apr. 2019. ↩
- Hyde, K. L., Lerch, J. , Norton, A. , Forgeard, M. , Winner, E. , Evans, A. C. and Schlaug, G. (2009), The Effects of Musical Training on Structural Brain Development. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1169: 182-186. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04852.x ↩
- White-Schwoch, Travis, et al. “Older Adults Benefit from Music Training Early in Life: Biological Evidence for Long-Term Training-Driven Plasticity.” Journal of Neuroscience, Society for Neuroscience, 6 Nov. 2013, www.jneurosci.org/content/33/45/17667.short. Accessed 23 Apr. 2019. ↩
- WIRED. “How Does Music Affect Your Brain? | Tech Effects | WIRED.” YouTube, WIRED, 15 Mar. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRE624795zU. Accessed 3 Apr. 2019. ↩