What Happens To Your Brain When You Listen To Music?

Music can be used as an effective tool for motivation, and you have seen it being used in a variety of ways, such as – to relax, get pumped for a workout and of course for a number of therapeutic purposes. Well in fact, when you listen to music, your neural reacts differently depending on the types of music and this in turn, affects your emotion regulation. But, what really happens to your brain when you listen to music? This is what episode of Life Noggin’s “This Is Your Brain On Music” explains. To start with, the narrator first talks about how music gets processed.

Let’s say you and your friend are listening to the same music. Even though you both have different tastes in music, your brain will experience music the same way as your friend does. Yes, the brains of different people have the similar response to music. This was proven in an imaging study at Stanford University School of Medicine where non musician volunteers were made to listen to symphonic musical pieces by 18th-century English composer William Boyce. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that activity levels in several different regions in the brain responded similarly.

Or, in other words, it all had activity in the brain regions involved in movement, motor planning, attention and of course, the auditory cortex. The narrator explains that this synchronized activity of the brain is not what scientists would have expected it music was processed the same way as other auditory stimuli, meaning – the brain treats music differently.

Also, at the peak emotional time, listening to music induces release of dopamine in the brain striatum. Dopamine is the same neurotransmitter involved in more tangible pleasures associated with rewards such as food, drugs and sex. Even more, a study revealed that even during the anticipation of these times, dopamine is released as in case with food, drug and sex cues. Brain is encouraging you to keep listening to music through the release of dopamine. In other words, it is basically your brain telling you whether you should or not listen to music.

And believe it or not, music not only changes your mood, it also changes your perception of the world. A study showed that people see happy faces when they listen to happy music, but if they happen to listen to sad songs, they are likely to see sad faces. So maybe, if you want to perceive the world as a happy place, you should just stick with happy songs instead.

Furthermore, listening to classical music may improve visual attention in stroke patients with unilateral neglect (UN), a common behavioral syndrome in patients after they have had stroke. When researchers tested how patients with UN reacted to silence, classical music and white noise; results showed classical music had the most positive effect and interestingly, silence resulted in the worst scores. So noise seems like good idea for visual attention, but as a matter of fact, music is better.

Also, did you know that while playing a musical instrument doesn’t necessarily make you a genius, it can make you a smarter person? A study showed that children who received at least three years of instrumental music training performed better than their non-musical counterparts on a number of tests.

Although researchers found instrumental music training was not associated with increased mathematical abilities or phonemic awareness, they believed it might enhance auditory discrimination, fine motor skills and vocabulary. The researchers think this is because “decoding written music might increase reading ability and visual pattern recognition.”

So have given up on learning an instrument? If so, you should start learning it right away.