The power of music in keeping the brain healthy

Reading Time: 2 minutes Can music affect your well-being, learning, cognitive function and quality of life? Professionals and students discuss the power of music as a complementary treatment for different conditions.

The view of an opera concert hall from the upper level.Reading Time: 2 minutes

Neuropsychology discusses the diverse effects that music has on the brain and has also discovered its relationship with human emotions. For example, according to Jennifer L.W. Fink of Pfizer, “Listening to (or making) music increases blood flow to brain regions that generate and control emotions. The limbic system, which is involved in processing emotions and controlling memory, ‘lights’ up when our ears perceive music.”

However music’s benefits are not only associated with emotion; music may also affect cognitive functions such as judgment, decision-making and self-regulation. cites the American Academy of Pediatrics when it mentions that “children at school use music to memorize the alphabet, [and] shopping centers play music to attract consumers and keep them in the store.” Additionally, Pfizer suggests that music has the potential to help the brain process information more effectively as well as reduce pain. 

Researchers even believe music may be able to influence the brain development of young children. John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explains in his book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain,”

“The brain development of young children is enhanced when they are exposed to classical music. … No one doubts that listening to music at a very young age affects spatial reasoning on which mathematics and engineering are based.” 

Music is believed to be one of the best activities for opening up new neural pathways in the brain. According to Dr. Andrew Budsun, a contributor for Harvard Health, “[M]usic can activate almost all brain regions and networks.” During this process, music activates the auditory cortex in the temporal lobes of the brain and synchronizes different parts of the brain together. This process activates “a variety of memory regions … and, interestingly … the motor system … that allows us to pick out the beat of the music even before we start tapping our foot to it,” Budsun explains. 

As music opens diverse neurological pathways, instances of decreased anxiety have also been recorded among patients living with Alzheimer’s disease when listening to stimulating music. In an article published by Stacy W. Kish of the University of Utah Health, this phenomenon is explained because “[a]ctivation of neighboring regions of the brain [not affected by Alzheimer’s] may also offer opportunities to delay the continued decline caused by the disease.”

Music has had positive effects on the lives of students around campus. Brooklyn Stowe, a UVU student majoring in exercise science, explained, “For studying, I like putting on music, since it helps me concentrate better, and I feel more motivated while doing homework.” Megan Kahlfeldt, a UVU student studying accounting, explained that she instantly feels in a better mood when listening to her favorite music. 

There is no doubt that music will remain a transcendent form of communication and expression over the years. For humans, the power of music can be very beneficial, positively impacting important cognitive functions such as mood stability, memory recall, brain development, motor function and more. This is the power of music in keeping our brains healthy.