The Effect of Music On the Brain

I love music and listen to it often when I work. But I didn’t know how it affected my brain and body. Music is an integral part of our lives, so I thought it would be helpful and interesting to look at how we respond to it.

The Effect of Music On the Brain

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Without music life would be a mistake.”

Music can impact your happiness, well-being, learning, and cognitive function.

Scientifically, music has been shown to affect the brain profoundly.

A recent survey by AARP on music and brain health revealed some fascinating findings of music’s impact on cognitive and emotional well-being.

  • Music listeners scored higher on mental well-being than people who dont listen to music and had slightly lower anxiety and depressive symptoms.
  • Respondents who regularly attend musical performances rated their brain health at 69% or higher, compared to 58% who attended in the past and 52% who had never attended.
  • 68% of people who had been exposed to music as children rated their ability to learn new things as excellent or very good, compared to 50% who weren’t.
  • Higher happiness and cognitive function levels were associated with active musical engagement.

Recent research has shown that music can positively affect many brain functions, including stress relief, pain relief, memory, and brain injuries. Scientists discovered that music stimulates more brain functions than any other human activity. Let’s look at how music can stimulate and heal the brain.

1. How we perceive neutral faces is affected by happy or sad music

Although we can often say a piece of particular music is happy or sad, this is not a subjective feeling based on how it makes us feel. Our brains respond differently to sad and happy music.

Even a short piece of sad or happy music can affect us. A study found that participants were more likely than others to interpret a piece of music as either happy or sad; this was in line with the music’s tone. The most striking results were for expressions that were close to neutral.

Another interesting thing is how music affects our emotions.

Two types of emotions can be associated with music: perceive emotions, and feel emotions.

This means we sometimes understand the emotions in a piece of music but don’t feel them. This is why some people find sad music more enjoyable than depressing.

We don’t feel any danger or threat in listening to music. Therefore, we can perceive related emotions without actually feeling them. It is almost like experiencing vicarious emotions.

2. Creativity can be improved by ambient noise

When tackling our daily tasks, it’s natural to turn up the music. However, when it comes down to creativity, loud music might not be the best choice.

It turns out that a moderate level of noise is the best place to express creativity. Low levels of ambient noise are more stimulating than high noise levels.

This works by increasing processing difficulty, which encourages abstract processing, which leads to greater creativity; this means that we can resort to more creative solutions when things are not as easy to process as they usually would.

However, creativity is impaired by high levels of noise because we are overwhelmed and have a hard time processing information efficiently.

This is similar to how temperature, lighting, and productivity can affect productivity. However, living in a more crowded area can also be beneficial.


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3. Music choices can help us predict who we will be

Although it has only been tested with young adults, it is still fascinating.

A study with couples that spent time getting to know one another, looking at their top ten favorite songs, provided reliable predictions about the listener’s personality characteristics.

What Your Musical Taste Says About You

Personality traits were used in the study: openness to experiment, extraversion and agreeableness. 

Some traits are more accurate than others based on the listener’s habits. Openness to experiment, extraversion, and emotional stability were the most difficult to predict. On the other hand, conscientiousness was not apparent based upon musical taste.

According to a Heriot-Watt University study, here’s a breakdown of how different genres relate to our personalities.

  • Blues fans are self-confident, creative, outgoing, and gentle, and they love Blues.
  • Jazz lovers are self-confident, creative, outgoing, and easy-going.
  • Classical music lovers are self-confident, creative, introverted, and easy-going.
  • Rap fans are self-confident and outgoing.
  • Opera lovers are self-confident, creative, and gentle.
  • Country and western supporters are hardworking, outgoing individuals
  • Reggae lovers are self-confident, creative, and not hardworking. They are gentle, kind, and easy-going.
  • Dance enthusiasts are outgoing and creative but not gentle.
  • Indie lovers are low in self-esteem, creative, hardworking, and not gentle.
  • Bollywood lovers are outgoing and creative
  • Heavy metal/rock fans are low in self-esteem, creative, not hardworking, easy-going, gentle, and at ease
  • Chart pop are self-confident, outgoing, gentle, and hardworking. However, they are not creative or at ease.
  • Soul lovers are self-confident, creative, outgoing, and gentle.

It is difficult to generalize based on this study. The science of introverts shows some overlap.

4. Music training can significantly improve motor and reasoning skills

Although we assume that musical instruments can be beneficial to children, they are more valuable than we think. One study showed that children with three years of musical instrument training did better than those without. It was also revealed that children who had more time learning an instrument were better in fine motor skills and auditory discrimination abilities.

The test scores were also higher for vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills. These skills involve understanding and analyzing visual information such as relationships, similarities, and differences between patterns and shapes.

It’s fascinating to see how playing an instrument can help children develop various skills.

Similar research has shown that exercise and motor skills are related. This is fascinating, too.

5. Music helps us exercise

For years, research has been conducted on music’s effects on exercise. Leonard Ayres, an American researcher, discovered that cyclists could pedal faster when listening to music than in silence because music can drown out the brain’s fatigue cries. When our bodies realize we are tired, they send signals to the brain to take a rest. Music can compete for our brain’s attention and help us overcome those signs of fatigue. However, this is only beneficial for moderate and low-intensity exercise. Music isn’t as effective at distracting our attention from the pain during high-intensity exercises.

Music can help us not only push through the pain and make exercise more enjoyable but can also improve our ability to use energy efficiently. A 2012 study found that cyclists listening to music needed 7% less oxygen for the same work than those who cycled in silence.

In the same way, exercising makes us happier it is no surprise that music contributes significantly to our success in working out.

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.” —Billy Joel

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