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Music Isn't Just for Nerds

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Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I've played the piano since I was five years old and can’t imagine my life without it. Listening to music is always my go to therapy session whenever I’m upset or frustrated about something. Why? It just makes me feel happier - like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Performing music gives me a chance to express myself through melodies and notes. I can pour out my heart and soul into a song and create something that can be beautiful. Music has the ability to affect us differently than anything else. It is a stress reliever, hope producer, life giver, and light in the darkness. I strongly believe that music has a very big influence on our brain - from our emotions to the way we act. A strong piece of music will take you on a journey of ups and downs that will allow you to feel what the artist is feeling or you at least show you what the artist is feeling. Music is one of those things that probably will always have some unanswered questions, from how does it spell - bind us and pull us into a fantasy world to what can we do to use music to our advantage. Music affects our brain way more than what we would think.


Medically, music can be very beneficial. 23 studies were reviewed together and the conclusions held some very interesting information. Patients that had heart diseases were monitored and the data gathered revealed that patients who listened to music had reduced heart rates, reduced blood pressures, and reduced anxiety levels. Over 1,500 patients were monitored for this data. Also, music has the “potential to change brain function and structure when done over a long period of time," according to Gottfried Schlaug who is an expert on music, neuroimaging, and brain plasticity. As well as that, music has shown to affect creativity, cognition, and learning abilities.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know for most people we have those certain songs we listen to before a big game or a performance of some sort. These songs are a reliable source to get our mind’s where they need to be so that we can perform the best that we can. The reason why we listen to these same songs is because while they get our mind in the place we need it to be at, they also pump up our emotions. There are two types of emotions that have been distinguished when you are listening to music: perceived emotions and felt emotions. Perceived emotions are emotions that we can understand through a piece of music, while not actually feeling them. A perfect example of this would be that one slow, sad song on your “Pump Up Playlist.” That one song can give you the motivation you need to do something, while not bring you down because you aren’t feeling the emotion expressed - you just know what it is. The felt emotions are the emotions that stir in your gut when you hear that all too familiar beat start pumping through your speakers. All the emotional reactions that you have to music occur in the Nucleus Accumbens and the Amygdala.

Music also has shown to improve creativity. Again I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that most people like listening to music while doing homework or a project. Some studies have shown that a moderate noise level is the key for our creative juices to start flowing. Moderate noise levels make us struggle to process information just enough to where we have to start abstract processing. This leads to higher creativity! When music is blaring super loud, we become overwhelmed and struggle to process any information at all. So, I know a lot of people like to pump up the tunes, but when you are trying to focus and think, turn them down enough so your creativity can skyrocket.

Another small little music trivia thing is that music helps us memorize things. Is it a coincidence that we can sing hundreds of songs? When you include more of your senses while you are trying to memorize something, the percentages are greater that your information will stay memorized. When you are listening to a song, you are listening to it, possibly seeing the actual sheet music, and then singing it once you figure out the words. Right there, you are incorporating three out of your five senses into one single thing.

The next couple things completely blew me away when I was researching exactly what music does to the brain. There are 10 specific locations noted inside the brain that music directly affects. Here are some examples: The left and right hemispheres are connected in the Corpus Callosum, which makes the brain become more well connected when practicing music. The Motor Cortex is where playing an instrument and any type of movement, A.K.A. foot tapping and dancing to the beat of the music, makes the brain smarter and stronger. And in the Auditory Cortex, the tones that you hear are analyzed - so it’s the place that figures out if you like a song or not.
Practicing an instrument also helps our brains. Kids that had three or more years of musical instrument training tested better on vocabulary and nonverbal and reasoning skills than kids that hadn't played an instrument. This involves looking at and understanding visual information. Another study of 8-11 year old kids found that kids that played an instrument had higher verbal IQ levels than kids that didn't play an instrument. Practicing an instrument connects all four hemispheres of your brain and makes them more well connected. Having a more well connected brain increases your capacity for thinking and your overall brightness. For example, it’s no secret that Einstein was a genius. He was also a master violinist, as he played since the age of 13. His brain was incredibly well - connected. Scientists have linked together the facts and believe that Einstein’s musical abilities helped him accomplish all that he did.
Lastly, music helps us exercise. In 1911, Leonard Ayres, an American Researcher, found that cyclists pedaled faster while listening to music. The reason for this is because our attention is focused on the music so we don’t focus on our brain’s cries of pain. Music helps us override those signals of tiredness and force us to keep going. As well as helping us to push ourselves, music also helps us use our energy more efficiently. In 2012, a study was conducted that showed that cyclists who listened to music required 7% less oxygen to do a workout than those people whole cycled with no music.
Music is a very important part of our society. It gives us power and motivation to work hard. It helps our moods and emotions. And it is great for our brains. Music is a very powerful tool that can help us in so many ways. Many of these things won’t be known for years, but with the knowledge that we know today, music has the power to help us reach the moon and more.



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