Music Has An Incredible Effect On The Brain

"Where words fail, music speaks." -Hans Christian Anderson

We listen to music in the car, at the gym, at home, and everywhere in between.

Whether your favorite artists appear at the MTV Video Music Awards, strum on guitars in Nashville, or died hundreds of years ago when baroque was the fresh new style, there's no denying that music is an integral part of the human experience.

Because music is such an omnipresent part of our lives, it's no small wonder that so many studies have investigated its effect on the brain. Though this field of study is fairly new, it has been made very clear that our brain activity goes through the roof when music is involved.

The human brain uses different regions to process the rhythm, melody, and other attributes of music. When we listen to music, all of these areas become active, and the brain explodes with activity.

 Listening to familiar music utilizes the parts of the brain associated with memory, and can also help evoke an emotional response, according to a study in Human Brain Mapping. National Geographic also reports that music is linked to an increase in the white matter of the brain.

Things get even more exciting when it comes to actually playing music.

In addition to all of the other parts of the brain that get activated by music, physically playing an instrument also adds in the regions associated with motor function. In that same vein, researchers at Stanford University found that dancing and performing choreography also induces widespread activity throughout the brain by integrating all of the different processes necessary to keeping time and dancing along with music.

What does this all mean?

Knowing that music lights up the brain is more than just a fun fact. Understanding music's widespread effects can help researchers determine where certain actions occur in the brain, and could even be used to inspire new therapies for various disorders.

The more frequently neurological connections are made in the brain through listening to music, the stronger and faster they become. A study from researchers at Cambridge University found that those who regularly play music have improved problem-solving skills, even in topics that don't necessarily apply to music.

If you missed the boat learning an instrument as a child; don't worry. The Alzheimer's Foundation of America claims that regularly enjoying music can even help older people from developing Alzheimer's disease. 

Take the time to enjoy the music, and give your brain some exercise at the same time!

If you’d like to learn more, please check out this TedED video created by Dr. Anita Collins of the University of Canberra.