What Does Music do to the Brain?
To the question “What is the role of music in human life?” there are many answers. Today we invite you to familiarize yourself with a number of new scientific studies that have shed light on another little-known aspect – the effect of music on the work of the brain.
Can music make us happier?
According to the American music theorist Jerrold Levinson, the musical language is a no less expressive system of communication than ordinary human language as a subject of linguistic study.
Since music carries a much more powerful emotional charge than real-life events, modern psychologists are increasingly resorting to the use of music therapy. Its positive effect on the human condition can be explained at least by the fact that the reactions of our nervous system to cheerful and sentimental musical works are completely different. For example, participants in a recent experiment, after listening to a short song, interpreted a neutral facial expression as happy or sad, depending on which melody they heard.
The emotions that arose under the influence of music can be roughly divided into two types – perceived and felt. This means that a person is able to understand the mood of a piece of music, even if he never had to experience such sensations in real life. So, with psychological disorders of a depressive nature, cheerful music only aggravates a person’s condition, while sad motives, on the contrary, return bright colors to life.
How does background noise affect creativity?
In order not to go crazy with boredom while working on some painfully familiar task – for which you, quite possibly, get a solid material reward – you put on headphones, set the desired volume, select the required playlist and press the “play” button, it is so? Be that as it may, when it comes to work that requires activation of the right hemisphere, loud music is unlikely to help.
As it turns out, the average noise level is a kind of creative catalyst. By complicating the process of processing information, background noise stimulates abstract thinking and attunes the human brain to a creative work mode. That is why public places – cafes, summer grounds, embankments, parks, etc. – so attract creative people.
With a high level of noise, the human brain is too overloaded, as it tries not only to abstract from all the distractions, but also to process information as efficiently as possible.
Is it possible to determine the character of a person, knowing his musical preferences?
The results of this study, conducted by scientists at Heriot-Watt University (HWU), proved for the first time that there is a definite relationship between a person’s preferred musical genres and his character.
In the first part of the experiment, 36,518 young people from around the world were asked to rank 104 music genres based on their personal preferences. The next stage of the study was somewhat more difficult: the participants had to pair up and try to determine the character traits of their partners, based on their list of 10 most listened to songs. Five qualities were chosen for the analysis: openness to new experience, extraversion, politeness, conscientiousness, and emotional balance.
Scientists have come to the following conclusions:
- blues fans are creative, outgoing, polite, and arrogant;
- among jazz lovers, the most common are creative, friendly people with high self-esteem;
- fans of classical music are of an introverted type of personality, but despite this, they have a high sense of dignity and outstanding creativity;
- rap fans are sociable and slightly selfish;
- opera lovers include polite, open, creative personalities;
- fans of country and western are distinguished by their hard work and ability to easily find a common language with others;
- reggae fans have high self-esteem, are creative and sociable, but hard work is definitely not about them;
- lovers of rhythmic dance music belong to the extroverted type of personality, have certain creative abilities, but do not differ in good manners;
- indie fans have low self-esteem, are not hardworking, and are often poorly educated;
- Bollywood fans (music from Indian films) are very helpful and friendly;
- very often the lovers of heavy music – heavy metal, hardcore, etc. – have low self-esteem, but they have great creative potential.
The results obtained allowed scientists to develop a unique model that reflects the relationship between musical preferences and a person’s character:
Should you listen to music while driving?
There are countless hypotheses about the amazing power of music on driving, but unfortunately, none of them provide an answer to the question of whether it is safe. The results of a recent study conducted by scientists from Ben-Gurion University (Beersheba, Israel) raised doubts about the correctness of generally accepted assumptions about the positive effect of music on driving behavior while driving a car.
Scientists have tested how drivers are influenced by their own music, the “safe” compositions proposed by the researchers, and the complete absence of any musical accompaniment. As a result, the assumptions made by the scientists before the start of the experiment were fully confirmed: the drivers made the greatest number of mistakes while driving accompanied by their chosen compositions, a little less dangerous situations arose in the absence of musical accompaniment, but the music proposed by the researchers had the most favorable effect on the drivers.
Is there a connection between music and logic?
As you know, learning to play musical instruments at an early age has a beneficial effect on the further development of the child. In 2008, Mary Forgeard, Ellen Winner, and Andrea Norton, faculty members at the University of St. Andrews, found that children who practice music for about three years outperform their peers on four indicators at once: perception of information by ear, motor skills, vocabulary, and logical thinking. Thus, the scientists came to the conclusion that long-term intensive musical practice has a positive effect not only on the interhemispheric organization of auditory and motor functions but also on the process of redistribution of mental functions between the left and right hemispheres of the brain (lateralization).
How does classical music affect stroke victims?
A small study, the results of which were published on the website of the American Association for Occupational Therapy, showed that classical music has some rehabilitative properties.
The experiment was carried out with the participation of 16 patients who had suffered a stroke in the right hemisphere of the brain. For one week, the researchers monitored how classical music, white noise, and silence affected the attentiveness and visual perception of each patient. The results were recorded by scientists using specially developed visual analog scales (VAS, usually used to determine the degree of pain intensity). As with creativity and driving, the silence did not live up to scientists ‘expectations, but classical music significantly increased patients’ attention span and improved their visual memory.
Why is eavesdropping on telephone conversations harmful?
There is a sign on the Tokyo subway warning that telephone conversations are disturbing the rest of the passengers. As it turned out, there is a scientific explanation for this.
According to a study conducted by scientists at the University of California, San Diego, if a person unwittingly witnesses such a “semi-dialogue”, then his attention is scattered more than if he heard a full-fledged conversation.
“According to the results of a social survey, 82% of people find telephone conversations downright annoying. We were curious to know what kind of mental influence passive listeners give in, because today each of us has to try on this role several times a day, ”says research leader Veronica Galvan, assistant professor of psychology.
During the experiment, 164 volunteers were asked to decipher several anagrams. During this time, the researchers themselves were actively communicating with each other or talking on the phone, while the participants did not even suspect that the inappropriate behavior of psychologists was also part of the experiment.
After finishing the assignment, those students for whom the telephone conversation served as the background admitted that this significantly reduced their speed of work and concentration of attention, while the other half of the participants with grief remembered in half what the scientists were talking about and whether they talked at all.
How can you make your workouts more productive?
Scientists have been researching the effects of music on exercise for years. For example, in 1911 the American scientist Leonard Ayres discovered that cyclists pedal much faster when listening to rhythmic music than when they ride in silence.
This is because music simply drowns out the signals of fatigue. The body, feeling physically exhausted, sends to the brain the appropriate impulses that the muscles need time to recover. Music, in turn, predetermines such signals and motivates a person to exercise longer. It should be noted that musical accompaniment is especially useful during training with low to moderate intensity since the pain that occurs during heavy exertion is almost impossible to ignore.
Musical accompaniment also helps a person manage their energy reserves in the most efficient way. A 2012 study found that cyclists listening to music while exercising consumed 7% less oxygen, even though the load remained the same.
Some psychologists have argued that humans have an innate preference for a 2-hertz rhythm, which is equivalent to 120 beats per minute (bpm is the number of quarter notes per minute that determines the speed of a song), although, for cardiovascular equipment – treadmills, ellipticals, exercise bikes, and etc. – more rhythmic music is suitable. According to the researchers, the so-called “motivational ceiling” that ensures the peak of human productivity are compositions with a frequency of 145 bpm.
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