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#Music and the brain, what effect does music have on our brain? I

Have you noticed how the music you listen to is related to your mood? When you are happy, you usually put on music that has a lively, catchy rhythm, while when you are sad, you choose something that is more melancholy.


For many, music is a great inspiration, when you are working, studying, doing sport, driving, relaxing or changing your mood. But scientifically speaking, how in fact does music affect our brain?


música y cerebro


Music brings incredible benefit to the brain. Experts assure us that listening to music or learning to play an instrument is a way of exercising our brain. Here are 8 of the main actions music exerts on our brain.


1. Music can have an influence on how we perceive faces

It seems that the tone of the music can influence how we see others; it is not just a subjective idea of how we feel, but that something changes in the chemistry of our brain.


A study carried out by the Department of Psychology of the University of London showed that after listening to a short piece of music, the participants were more likely to interpret the expression of a neutral face as either happy or sad, to coincide with the experience of the music that they were listening to at that moment.


2. Background music can improve creativity

Many of us like to work to background music, but if the volume is very loud, it can affect our output, especially if we are involved in creative work. It emerges that a moderate volume is the best for creativity.


3. The type of music that we choose can predict our personality

A study was carried out in which the participants were given 6 weeks to get to know each other as couples, and when the results were analysed, they found that the most popular topic for conversation was music.


It seems that the participants used music as a way to get to know the personalities of the others. Given these results, the research was channelled towards learning how music can be a measurement of personality. The study used five personality traits to be evaluated: openness to experience, outgoing nature, friendliness, responsibility and emotional stability.


The traits that were predicted most correctly based upon the listening habits were openness to experience, outgoing nature and emotional stability. A factor like responsibility was not easy to predict with just musical taste as a base.


4. Music can distract us more than we think when we are driving

Another study carried out with adolescents and young adults focussed upon how music affects us when driving a vehicle.


The drivers were tested while they listened to their own choice of music, “safe” music chosen by the research team or silence. The results showed that the drivers who listened to their own music made more mistakes and drove in a more aggressive way.


Even more surprising was the finding that the music provided by the researchers turned out to be more effective than silence.


5. A musical education can significantly improve our motor capacity and reasoning power

Learning a musical instrument can be beneficial for children: a study has shown that children who have been learning a musical instrument for three years or more had better results in the skills of auditive discrimination and fine motor control than those who had none.


Music induces emotional states by facilitating changes in the distribution of chemical substances that bring on positive states of mind and greater excitement, which in turn can contribute to rehabilitation.


Through the clinical use of music, music therapy seeks to activate physiological and emotional processes which allow the stimulation of functions that have diminished or deteriorated and improve conventional treatments. Important results have been observed in patients with problems of mobility, speech difficulties as a result of a stroke, dementia, neurological disorders and in children with special needs, among others.


6. Classical music can improve our visual attention

A study carried out with patients suffering a stroke revealed improvements in visual attention while they listened to classical music. Neutral sounds and silence were used as control variables to compare the results and silence turned out to be the worst option, obtaining the lowest points.


Since the study was carried out with a small sample, its results are not very reliable, but still, this correlation between music and other senses such as vision is interesting.


7. Music is an effective medication for heart disease

Or at least it can help us to face the stress and anxiety associated with undergoing the treatment for coronary heart disease.


A review of 23 studies covering a total of almost 1,500 patients revealed that listening to music reduces the heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety in patients with heart disease.


8. Music helps us to exercise

Registers have been kept since 1911, when an American scientist, Leonard Ayres, found that cyclists pedalled faster when they listened to music than when they were in silence.


The explanation may be that when we listen to music our brain changes the focus of its attention and steers it away from the sensation of fatigue and pain. Our body realises that it is tired and wants to stop exercising, it sends signals to the brain to let it rest, but listening to music competes with these signals and encourages the physical activity to continue.


So in the same way that exercise makes us happier and healthier, it should come as no surprise that music adds a feeling of success to all our activities.

Sources: Neuroscience Psychological science/ Harvard medical school



September 11, 2019




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