Anyone who knows me on a personal level know that music is something I deeply appreciate. My life is constantly surrounded by music, whether it be playing music softly in my room, or being at a music festival with 110,000 other people listening to music for 10 hours a day for three days straight. Music alone always makes me feel strong emotions, which vary depending on what I choose to listen to. Music never fails to evoke strong feelings in me, typically feelings of happiness and euphoria, and I have always seemed to take for granted the power that music can have on one’s mind. It amazes me to think about how things such as melodies and lyrical flow exist, and that these things can completely change my mood at any given point. It is because of this power that music has on me that I have become so interested on how music affects your brain and body.
The psychology of music deals a lot with neuroscience and the brain’s behavior. Music causes different chemicals to be released or reduced, causing one’s brain to behave differently, thus changing one’s overall feelings and emotions. Our brain is what process and makes meaning of everything we hear, including music. Also, different parts of the brain react differently to music. The main effect music has on the brain is reducing stress, and can be seen by the affects it has on the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus determines bodily characteristics such as body temperature and hunger, as well as mood. We are able to neurologically able to see stress be reduced when comparing levels of cortisol, which is associated with stress, in a brain before and after listening to music. In almost all cases, cortisol levels decreases thus showing reduced stress levels (Shafron).
Although we are aware of the effects music has on the brain, it is still not known exactly why we enjoy music so much. It is thought that music has stemmed from earlier on in evolution, that ability to produce music used to show superiority, much like mating calls (Schäfer). Hearing music was then associated with feelings of happiness, and we continued to produce music because others enjoyed to hear it. The feeling of pleasure when listening to music comes because it causes the brain to release dopamine, which is associated with pleasure (Albane). Dopamine is the reward center for the brain, so therefore the when we hear music it almost becomes addicting because we want to hear more, better music. This eventually evolved into the modern complex but stunningly beautiful music we have today.