Can Music Improve Brain Health?
Written by Gurleen Khaira
Music has been with us for centuries. A combination of sounds that can be understood around the world, regardless of language. It is perhaps the greatest form of human expression and creativity, allowing us to demonstrate our feelings, and enriching different cultures. During difficult times, it is often music that brings us all together, and symbolises the best of humanity. But the impact of music is not exclusive to expression. In fact, much research demonstrates that music heightens brain health and memory health.
Can music improve brain function? The most notable study connecting music to improved cognitive function is the University of California’s research into the ‘Mozart effect’. To investigate this effect, researchers issued an IQ test to three groups of students. For 10 minutes before the test, one group listened to a Mozart piano sonata, one group listened to a relaxation tape, and the last group sat in silence. The results produced highlighted that those who listened to Mozart before the test had the highest test score, therefore creating a link between better cognitive function and listening to Mozart. You may wonder how this is possible. What actually happens in the brain that listening to Mozart results in better cognitive function? To get a definitive answer, much more research in the field is needed. However, researchers suspect that listening to some types of music prepares nerves in the right side of the cerebral cortex, allowing them to operate with increased efficiency. According to Johns Hopkins, there are certain types of music you should listen to depending on the brain function you want to improve. To improve creativity, it is recommended you listen to new types of music, perhaps what your children are listening to now. This induces your brain to understand a new type of sound, which heightens creativity. Contrastingly, listening to music from your childhood can help recall fond moments, and improve memory health.
Can music boost mental health?
There have been numerous studies into how music improves mental health. In particular, many have aimed to uncover the relationship between music and stress. To do so, some researchers study the impact of music on stress levels of those undergoing an operation.
A New York study investigatedthe effect of music on patients undergoing a cataract operation. 40 participants were randomly split into two groups; one group listened to music of their choice through headphones before, during and after the operation, and the other group did not. Stress was measured through blood pressure increases. Whilst both groups saw their blood pressure increase before the operation, it was found that those who listened to music saw a great decrease in their blood pressure during the operation. Patients who listened to music described that they felt calmer during the operation, in comparison to the description of those who did not listen to music. In this sense, music can be observed as a de-stressing mechanism, therefore aiding mental health.
Many say that music helps them feel happy, but is there any science behind this? Research byMcGill Universitydemonstrates that music can indeed uplift our mood. This is because, when listening to music you enjoy, your brain produces increased levels of dopamine. This is the chemical that is responsible for making you feel good, and is released when you eat chocolate, or feel like you're in love. It turns out that music can have the same effect as these other factors on dopamine levels. Therefore, there is scientific truth that music can make you feel happier.