The benefits of music on the brain
Our Music Coordinator Jade writes about the positive effects music can have on our brains.
Many of us will have felt the positive effects of music throughout our lives, but let’s take a look at what actually happens in the brain when we play an instrument, sing, or listen to music, and how this can be beneficial for everyone.
Music helps us to connect with our emotions
Music is a powerful tool to evoke emotion and can help us process and work through our feelings effectively. Music can invoke feelings of happiness and joy, but it can also help us release feelings of sadness and grief, which can be a healthy coping mechanism to help us manage these emotions, some of which may only be held on a subconscious level.
Music is a natural stress reliever
Music is a great way to lower cortisol levels – a hormone that is released in reaction to high levels of stress, and plays a part in our ‘fight or flight’ response.
Too much cortisol can trigger anxiety and extreme mood swings. It also increases heart rate and blood pressure, which is why we can often feel physically unwell when under too much stress.
Playing an instrument improves concentration and discipline
Playing or learning an instrument strengthens executive function skills – cognitive processes that are responsible for concentration, discipline and patience.
Scientists who have studied brain function in musicians found that, when playing an instrument, the parts of the brain responsible for executive function were highly engaged.
Those with weak executive functioning skills will have difficulty concentrating, organising tasks, and controlling behaviours. This can be seen in disorders like ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Increased executive functioning is not just beneficial for those with ADHD, or similar disorders, but also for anyone wishing to increase their productivity, decision making skills and focus.
Music boosts mood and increases wellbeing
Singing, playing an instrument, or even just listening to music can increase our serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone that helps to regulate mood, reduce anxiety, and increase feelings of happiness. Low serotonin levels can lead to anxiety, depression and other mental health difficulties.
Music significantly improves memory
Music is scientifically proven to drastically improve memory. Many singers and musicians suffering with dementia still maintain their ability to sing or play an instrument, even when other areas of their memory and skill set have declined. Alzheimer’s sufferers can even recall memories linked with a certain piece of music – this is because the areas of the brain linked to musical memory are often undamaged by the disease.
Singing can also help those suffering from a stroke or brain injury that has damaged the left side of the brain. As the left side of the brain is responsible for speech, and singing ability is formed in right side of the brain, they are able to sing their thoughts and gradually drop the melody to learn to speak again. Singing can also help us to learn words and phrases faster.