Affects of Music on the Brain

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.

2 thoughts on “Affects of Music on the Brain

  1. Michael Robert Szawaluk

    I too am a music enthusiast. Music helps me get through my day whether it be in the morning helping me wake up or at night helping me go to sleep. I usually listen to music when I do my homework and I have been told and you see it all over the internet that listening to music can be a huge distraction. In the case of listening to music while I do my homework, I am actually currently listening to now, I find it to be a mix of distracting and helpful. According to a study done in 2005 by “Psychology of Music”, it found that listening to music can boost your emotions and mood which can lead to you being more focused while completing tasks. I think I will start listening to music all the time while I do my homework now!
    You can find more about that here: Also click on some of the links off that page, very interesting material.

  2. Matthew Jacobs-Womer

    I was aware that music triggered emotion changes, but I had no clue all of the specifics behind it before reading this article. I can agree that my mood can change drastically from the music or type of music that is playing. Just think of being at a party; a great song is on that you love, everyone is having a great time… then some awful song comes on and the mood instantly dies down. It is crazy to think that such a small aspect of life (how it appears) can impact us so greatly. It is also very interesting how different types of music can invoke specific emotions. Here is a short blog that discusses why there is a correlation between suicide rates and country music. Based on the short excerpt, it seems like it may be possible to say that country music causes suicide… or do suicidal people just like listening to country music? Good blog.

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