Listening to music is power! Watch how music affects the human brain – science you like

Estimated time: 4 minutes

Music has a tremendous impact on the human brain and the entire human body. We seem to know the benefits of listening to music, but do you know how it works? What exactly is the effect of music on the brain?

How does music affect a person?

Listening to music is good for the work of the heart, it helps relieve pain, develops memory, motor skills, improves concentration, improves mood, evokes positive emotions and makes us happier. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

Sound is transmitted in the air by particles vibrating at a specific frequency. It passes first through the outer ear canal of the ear and then through the middle ear. When it reaches the inner ear, the signal is converted into nerve impulses and transmitted to the brain, where it reaches the auditory centers in the temporal cortex. This is where the basic sounds are interpreted. A deeper analysis and interpretation of music takes place in the prefrontal cortex.

Our brain extracts essential features from music using neural networks that split the signal into information about pitch, timbre, spatial location, loudness, echo, duration of tones and their various components.

How does music evoke emotions?

The basic elements of sounds are processed in the peripheral and older parts of our brains. Processing of more complex items occurs in more complex parts that receive nerve projections from sensory receptors and from lower-level processing units. On the other hand, high-level processing is where everything comes together, where our mind perceives the form and content of the entire melody.

The effect of music on the human brain

And here, the effect of music on the brain causes a wide range of different emotions and feelings: from joy and peace to sadness and fear.[1]. Musical experience is accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes[2]. Listening to music alters the state of the autonomic nervous system, including via heart rate, breathing, skin reactions, and even temperature.

The feelings evoked by music are derived on one hand from the emotional characteristic of sounds and the compositional structure (minor or major scale, volume, time signatures), but also from the overlapping layers, cognitive steps, such as memory[3].

Most likely, people discovered very early on that certain frequencies and combinations of sounds evoke predictable feelings and emotions. Music can therefore have an evolutionary impact on social functions such as group organization, identity, and communication[4].

But is there music that heals the brain?

Music can engage innate physiological activity programs. Thus, it helps to return the physiological state to the range of symmetric relative equilibrium. These changes are noticeable both in the upper brainstem and in the cerebral cortex (ie in the insular cortex and cingulate gyrus).[5].

Music that heals the brain

The relaxing effect of music helps counteract experiences and reactions related to the tension of certain muscles. Helps restore the inner state of calm and overcome anxiety reactions. It also modulates pain perception by affecting the activity of selected areas of pain inhibition.

Besides, music is psychophysical (Assums psychological support for the patient and regulation of the vegetative functions of the organism), psychologically (emotional, communicative, cognitive and human influence), psychomotor (Treatment of movement disorders and as a regulating and stimulating agent) and pedagogically (Helps to get into a state of focus).

Why is he so cute?

Several neuroimaging studies have shown that the hedonistic aspects of listening to music activate the limbic and afferent structures. These include, for example, the experience of “goose bumps”. Furthermore, pleasant music activates the dopamine reward system in us. It has been shown that the number of goosebumps reported by responders correlates with the amount of dopamine released in the caudate nucleus.

Dopamine is an essential component of learning reinforcement and reward-driven behavior. In addition, listening to music for pleasure is associated with the release of opioids in the spine and mid-brain.

The fact that the song is our favorite may be related to our ability to alter the degree of arousal and the state of the autonomic nervous system. This, in turn, correlates with activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and insular cortex. Besides them, an increase in cerebral blood flow is observed within the hemispherical cortex and anterior cingulate cortex[6].

Read also:

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[1] Sloboda, J.A.; O’Neill, SA, and Ivaldi, A.; (2001). The functions of music in everyday life: an exploratory study using the experimental sampling method. Musicae Scientiae, 5, 9–32

[2] Shearer, K.; , and Zentner, M (2001). The Emotional Effects of Music: The Rules of Production. In P.N. Juslin & J.A. Sloboda (Editors). Music and Emotion: Theory and Research Oxford University Press (pp. 631-392).

[3] Shearer, K.; (2004). What emotions can music cause? What are the basic mechanisms? And how can we measure it? Journal of New Music Research, 33, 239-25

[4] Kolsch, S.; (2010). Towards a neural basis for the emotions evoked by music. Trends in Cognitive Science, 14, 131-137

[5] Pratico, E, Allory, F, Bogert, B, Jacobsen, T. Vartainen, N, Nieminen, S, and Tervaneemi, M. (2011). An functional magnetic resonance imaging study of happy and sad feelings in music with and without words. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 308.

[6] I ask H. , Antonio D. (2014) Music, feelings, and the human brain. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind and Brain, 24, 92-102


Michel Bouric

I am interested in issues in the field of cosmology, cognitive science, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and philosophy. She graduated from Clean Energy Technologies at the School of Environmental Engineering at the Silesian University of Technology in Glivići. I am currently a PhD student in Natural Philosophy and Cosmology. My biggest passion is travel and mountains (in winter and summer).

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