How music affects the brain
One of the first things that happens when music enters our brains is the triggering of pleasure centers that release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy. This response is so quick, the brain can even anticipate the most pleasurable peaks in familiar music and prime itself with an early dopamine rush.
Beyond simply making you feel good, however, there’s evidence that music can even be good for your health. Research has shown that listening to music is associated with upticks in immunity-boosting antibodies and cells that protect against bacteria and other invaders. Music has also proven to be effective across a variety of treatment scenarios for conditions ranging from premature birth to depression to Parkinson’s disease
Since 2006, two UCF professors — neuroscientist Kiminobu Sugaya and world-renowned violinist Ayako Yonetani — have been teaching one of the most popular courses in The Burnett Honors College. “Music and the Brain” explores how music impacts brain function and human behavior, including by reducing stress, pain and symptoms of depression as well as improving cognitive and motor skills, spatial-temporal learning and neurogenesis, which is the brain’s ability to produce neurons. Sugaya and Yonetani teach how people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s also respond positively to music.
“Usually in the late stages, Alzheimer’s patients are unresponsive,” Sugaya says. “But once you put in the headphones that play [their favorite] music, their eyes light up. They start moving and sometimes singing. The effect lasts maybe 10 minutes or so even after you turn off the music.”
This can be seen on an MRI, where “lots of different parts of the brain light up,” he says. We sat down with the professors, who are also husband and wife, and asked them to explain which parts of the brain are activated by music.
Music improves brain health and function in many ways. It makes you smarter, happier, and more productive at any age. Listening is good, playing is better.
Music has played an important part in every human culture, both past and present.
People around the world respond to music in a universal way.
And now, advances in neuroscience enable researchers to measure just how music affects the brain.
The interest in the effects of music on the brain has produced a new field of research called neuromusicology which explores how the nervous system reacts to music.
And the evidence is in — music activates every part of the brain.
Playing, or even just listening to, music can make you smarter, happier, healthier, and more productive at all stages of life.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the latest findings about the ways music can enhance the health and function of the brain.