History of Music
There is some universal beauty in the harmonies and melodies that dance their way to an ear in weaving sound waves. Music has been an integral part of everyday life since the glorious sounds of 500 BCE Ancient Greece and Rome. In the last few decades, the industry has grown to encompass over a thousand different genres and continues to expand and evolve alongside the world. Many recognize music as a reflection of their mood: upbeat to go along with a night out with friends, mellow to accompany the endless waterworks, or maybe rock and roll to fit a certain rebellious phase of life. However, behind the curtain, music can work all forms of magic on the mind. In fact, listening to music can increase cognitive performance, stimulate pain reduction, and promote stress relief.
Cognitive Boost from Music
Music’s first trick is boosting cognitive functions in the brain. Harvard departments report about a study conducted by researchers in the University of California, Irvine where three groups of students listened to either Mozart, a relaxation tape, or silence for 10 minutes before taking an IQ test: “Mozart was the winner, consistently boosting test scores” (Harvard Health Publishing). The reason behind this result has to do with music setting the gears of the mind in motion, essentially stimulating brain cells. The University of Central Florida goes further to report that music calls into play 12 different lobes or areas of the human brain, increasing intelligence, decision-making, memory, and more (“Music and the Brain: What Happens When You’re Listening to Music.”). Overall, the familiarity and complexity of melodies go a long way in stimulating the mind, increasing its cognitive performance.
Medical Music and Pain
Music’s next act of the night is reducing physical pain in the body. According to Line Gebauer, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience, there are two hypotheses for music’s role in alleviating pain: music may release opioids in the brain as a form of “morphine” or may simply distract the patient from the injury (Charlotte Price Persson). While listening to a preferred genre will not cure the injury or affliction, it can assist in restricting the recognition of pain in the mind. This allows for lower dosages of discomforting medication and less distress in patients overall.
Finally, music can conjure up varying hormone levels for the body to release stress. A double blind study trial of 10 patients in an ICU supports this idea: “The music recipients also had lower blood pressures and heart rates as well as lower blood levels of the stress hormone adrenaline and the inflammation-promoting cytokine interleukin-6” (Harvard Health Publishing). This is possibly why many athletes tend to put in headphones and immerse themselves in their music before a big game or meet. Listening to a favored tune actually physically lowers levels of adrenaline in the body, allowing for stress to be released.
Power of Music
To sum up, the effect of music on the mind reaches much farther than pure enjoyment; it boosts cognitive functions with memory and intelligence, alleviates pain through distraction and opioids, and releases stress through adrenaline depletion. Songs enchant the mind into becoming stronger and more versatile. And as crazy as it seems, music can heal more than a broken heart. So stop, take a deep breath, and reap the rewards of this almost hallucinogenic remedy.
Charlotte Price Persson. “Music Can Relieve Chronic Pain.” SNORDIC-FRONT , 25 Mar. 2014, sciencenordic.com/denmark-diseases-music/music-can-relieve-chronic-pain/1398718. Harvard Health Publishing. “Music and Health.” Harvard Health ,
“Music and the Brain: What Happens When You’re Listening to Music.” Pegasus Magazine ,
Powell, John. “The Science of Songs: How Does Music Affect Your Body Chemistry?”
The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 16 May 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/16/the-science-of-songs-how-does-music-effect-y our-body-chemistry.
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