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how music affects the brain
Living in a society where brain diseases and other related medical conditions have become far too common despite all the medical breakthroughs that have happened even in just the past decade and during a time when emotional stability seems to be on the decline, there is research with evidence to show that one step toward a cure for these debilitating conditions is music. This evidence shows that listening to music helps emotion, memory, and brain function. Nina Kraus, a highly trained brain researcher, states, “music is recourse that tones the brain for auditory fitness” (Klemm). The large amount of research for music therapy and music related to emotion shows patients who are recovering from brain challenges and are naturally altering negative moods.
There are many reasons why music can and should be used for patients facing these problems. For example, with people living longer there are more people who are living with diseases like dementia. No family member wants to go through this with a loved one. One way that families can keep their member around with a sound mind longer is having them in music therapy. Therefore with music so accessible it should be used to help patients who suffer from emotional, memory, and brain functioning diseases and setbacks.
One of the major contributions to the improvement of spatial reasoning is the Mozart Affect. This is the study in which scientists discovered that listening to Mozart’s music increases human intelligence. Specifically, these studies have resulted in showing increased spatial-temporal reasoning (Why Music Education Programs are Important in Our Schools). This part of the brain helps kids to notice spatial patterns. In general terms, when a child notices a pattern, it is usually for only a short period of time. What the Mozart affect does is triggers the mind to allow it to recall these patterns while these skills are still functioning in the brain. Then kids start to notice the pattern throughout the day whether they are singing, listening to music, or playing an instrument. This increased ability is contributed to spatial reasoning helped along by the Mozart Affect.
Mozart’s music doesn’t only increase human intelligence, but it changes their mood. It affects the brain emotionally. Dopamine is released into the brain and which can cause a natural high from music. It is changing their mood to being happy. Thirty minutes of Mozart or classical music is said to give the same feeling as a single dosage of valium. The nucleus accumbens, often referred to as the pleasure center of the brain, is studied in the way dopamine signals change in response to drugs like cocaine and amphetamine. Music has the same effect on the nucleus accumbens (This is Your Brain on Music). Research has shown that listening to ten minutes of Mozart a day will make the brain smarter. Schools in Tennessee are requiring classes to listen to Mozart for at least twenty minutes during school, so the students will increase intelligence and positive moods (Study Suggests Music May Someday Help Repair Brain). If students want to boost their positive mood, but they are finding no listening enjoyment from Mozart, they can listen to the genre of their choice. Music that the student likes is more effective on moods than music they don’t like. Whatever genre students prefer, moves their brain more than they would ever think, which allows for multi brain function.
Along with the style of music, the components of music, such as harmony, also show direct responses to the brain. Using a medical PET scanner, McGill University discovered that different parts of the brain involved in emotion are activated depending on whether the music is pleasant or harsh (Study Suggests Music May Someday Help Repair Brain). Anne Blood states “Everyone knows music can produce powerful emotional effects. This suggests different emotions are represented in different parts of the brain” (Study Suggests Music May Someday Help Repair Brain).
If the body is not moving to the music, the brain is. Music affects both sides of the brain’s cerebrum. Studies found that the brain interprets written musical notes and stores them in an area on the brain’s right side. The region that responds to music is in an area on the opposite side of the brain, which is known to handle written words and letters. So in studying the brains of musicians, researchers found an anatomical link between music and language. Researcher Lawrence Parsons at the University of Texas in San Antonio comments, “We are guessing [the area] is involved in the visual processing of the score itself” (Study Suggests Music May Someday Help Repair Brain). He further states, “On the left, the same area is involved in reading” (Study Suggests Music May Someday Help Repair Brain).
While many other things in life only affect one side of the brain, the cerebrum is the largest brain structure and accounts for about two-thirds of the brain’s mass. It is divided into two sides. The left and right hemispheres are separated by a deep groove down the center from the back of the brain to the forehead. These two halves are connected by the long neuron branches called the corpus callosum. This is somewhat larger in girls than in guys. The cerebrum is positioned over and around most other brain structures, and its four lobes are specialized by function but are richly connected (Building Mental Muscle). The outer 3 millimeters is the cerebral cortex which is also known as the gray matter. This consists of closely packed neurons that control most body functions, including the mysterious state of consciousness, the senses, motor skills, reasoning and language (Building Mental Muscle).
The brain responds to musical training in the way a muscle responds to exercise. Researchers discovered male musicians have significantly larger brains than men who have not had extensive musical training (Study Suggests Music May Someday Help Repair Brain). The cerebellum, which contains about seventy percent of the brain’s neurons, was about five percent larger except in expert male musicians. These same researchers found no size increase in the brains of female musicians (Study Suggests Music May Someday Help Repair Brain). Overall, music seems to involve the brain at almost every level.
Common memory issues that face people today include Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, and Stroke. The music that makes the foot tap, the fingers snap, and pulse quickens, stirs the brain at its most fundamental levels, suggesting that scientist one day will be able to retune damaged minds by exploiting rhythm, harmony, and melody. Music stimulates regions of the brain responsible for memory, motor control, timing and language. Music can stimulate parts of the brain that are underactive in these disorders and overtime the brain could be retrained in these disorders (Study Suggests Music May Someday Help Repair Brain). Music is a way of retooling a brain afflicted with a variety of emotional disorders along with neurological diseases. Recently Gabrielle Giffords used music therapy to help her learn to talk again. Giffords was a congress woman from Arizona who lived through a gunshot to the head, but sustained serious brain injuries. Music is represented in multiple parts of the brain, and allowing it accesses deeper pathways between neurons. Music helps the patient connect to the stored knowledge of words through songs, and helps create the new connections needed for speech. This is the process Giffords went through to regain her speech loss. This same process has been used for stroke victims, and has been referred to as the Kenny Rogers Effect (Sohn).
Performing music has been proven to increase memory and language skills, but for listeners it is better used as a means to recall memories. It has been shown in Alzheimer’s patients to help with memory recall. It even restores cognitive function; it works for Alzheimer’s patients just like it works with everyone else. When these patients listen to familiar music, the response works the hippocampus, which controls long term storage in the brain. This process can bring out relevant memories that patients have made while listening to a certain song. The idea of forming new memories with music, and then using the same music again later to bring back the memory has proven to work. The hippocampus is located deep within the brain; it processes new memories for long term storage. If the brain didn’t have it, humans couldn’t live in the present, they would be stuck in the past with old memories. It is among the first functions that falter in Alzheimer’s and Dementia (Building Mental Muscle).
Music has power. It uses its power on individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Music can spark forceful outcomes even in the very late stages of the disease. Music can sometimes be one of the last things that an Alzheimer’s patient is able to hang on to because there are factors about music, such as rhythm that do not require much or any cognitive part of the brain. This music is something that has become imbedded within the person and gives the patient a natural response. Research shows, “A person’s ability to engage in music, particularly rhythm playing and singing, remains intact late into the disease process because, again, these activities do not order cognitive functioning for success” (Education and Care).
There are different stages to musical therapy. There is an early stage, middle stage, and late stage. In the early stage there are many different tools patients can use to fight the disease. For the early stage the patient can go out dancing or dance in the house. They can also listen to music that they liked in the past. If the patient does not like the music, experiment with different types of concerts and venues. If the patient played an instrument before, encourage him/her to try it again. Create a musical history of favorite recordings, which can be used to help memory recall (Education and Care).
For the middle stage of music therapy, play music or sing as the individual is walking to improve balance. Use background music to enhance the mood. Play relaxing music at night time if they are having behavior problems (Education and Care). Then for the late stage, utilize the music collection of old favorites that were made earlier. Play soothing music to provide a sense of comfort. The patient can even exercise to music, work on drumming, or other rhythm based activities. Facial expressions can be used to communicate feelings when involved with these activities (Education and Care).
When dementia starts to progress, individuals usually lose the ability to share thoughts and gestures of fondness with their loved ones. However, the patient often keeps their skill to move with the beat until very late in the course of the disease. They can easily be directed to a couple’s dance, which may also create kissing, and hugging. Those who can no longer walk can follow cues; they can rhythmically swing their arms with the beat (Education and Care).
People with these related diseases need to be treated as soon as possible. There needs to be classical music playing in retirement homes, or there should be a set time that all the residents of the home have to listen to thirty minutes of Mozart a day. This treatment should also be used in schools. Students need to have a time when the teacher has them listen to Mozart for at least ten minutes a day. Research shows listening to this style of music increases intelligence levels.
Alzheimer’s, dementia, and stroke are huge problems that face the world today. We need to attack this problem with music. Experts in their field have found evidence through their research that proves musical therapy helps with emotion, the brain, and brain function. Patients and people who have brain diseases need to start doing more musical therapy. With this therapy, people will have more emotional stability. Music therapy will help patients learn how to talk, walk, remember, have better brain function, and it will also help with the patient’s overall wellbeing. Even if the body is not moving physically, the brain is still working and moving.