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Nay 1Ryan NayBennett12th Lit/Comp16 September 2011 How Music Affects the Brain Music has been affecting society throughout history. Throughout every great civilizationthere has been the discovery of music. Music is just a part of human instinct; all the cultures thatcan be found on Earth can be traced to music. The influence of music on modern society can beeasily seen today. It has been proven that music has many influences on humans in positive andnegative ways. Music has been proven to alter a person’s mood, and has shown to causephysical responses in many people simultaneously. Also music has the power to strengthen orweaken emotions from events like a funeral. Classical Music causes the heart beat and pulse rateto relax to the beat of the music. The mind is able to concentrate better, as the body becomesmore relaxed and alert. By decreasing the blood pressure this enhances the ability to learn.Music affects the brain by influencing behavior, being therapeutic, and helps the mind processinformation more efficiently. Science has also confirmed that humans have responded to music from birth. Theirstudies have also shown that music may even help patients heal from disease or stroke. ElenaMannes, a lead scientist in brain research, has tracked the human relationship with musicthroughout a person’s lifetime. She believes that one day music will play a major role in howpeople deal with their health. Some of her studies have shown that infants prefer “consonantintervals, the smooth-sounding ones that sound nice to our Western ears in a chord, as opposed to
Nay 2a jarring combination of notes” (Mannes.) Mannes even went far enough to say that the cries ofbabies just a few weeks old were discovered to have some intervals common to western music.She also states that scientists believe music stimulates more parts of the brain than any otherhuman function. With this knowledge, she sees that music has so much potential when it comesto affecting the brain and how it works.One of the main areas of the brain music can have a realimpact on is with neurological deficits. For example, if a patient who just had a stroke occur andlost verbal functions, those functions can be stimulated by music. This is known as melodicintonation therapy and it can help patients regain their speech. The human brain is split into two parts, the left and right hemisphere. The righthemisphere has been traditionally thought of to be the “seat of music appreciation.” However,the right side has not been proven for that role in any way; people with brain damage to the leftand right side still appreciate music in the same way. “Studies of musical understanding inpeople who have damage to either hemisphere, as well as brain scans of people taken whilelistening to tunes, reveal that music perception emerges from the interplay of activity in bothsides of the brain” (Joelving). One important thing to realize is just how the brain breaks downand interprets music. To interpret music all sounds go into the ears, then travel to the auditorycortex, which are assemblages of cells just above both ears. This cortex is crucial for gettingpitch, and other types of melodies like harmony, timbre, and rhythm. On the left side of thebrain, people can process quick changes in frequency and intensity. Both hemispheres of thebrain are needed for total perception of rhythm. A reason for this is because without both sides ofthe brain it is impossible to tell the difference between three-quarter and four-quarter time. Thefront of thebrain is where memories are stored, which also plays part in rhythm and melody
Nay 3perception. Research has also found that activities in the brain control movement even whenpeople just listen to music without moving any parts of their bodies. Music has an almighty power to affect man’s emotions and behavior. Many differentparts of the brain and body are stimulated by the sound of music. “Psychological study of musicis based on this reason. Studies have found that music can reduce stress, aid relaxation, alleviatedepression, and help store and recall information among other functions” (Kirkweg). A vitalway music reduces stress in the body is by lowering the total amount of the hormone cortisone.Music can be a great stress reliever for everyday life. The way this is being used today is withmusic therapy. Music therapy is musical activities for the reason of changing behaviors andimproving everyday life. Another way this breakthrough therapy is used today is by helpingpeople with memory problems. With our tremendous advances in realizing how the mindprocesses information; it is easy to see how this is possible. The brain is made up of a veryintricate system of neural networks that sends information from one part of the brain to another.Through studying neural networks it has been discovered that there are many factors that seem toaffect this. These factors are attention, stress, emotion, music, and aging. The music factorimproves the efficiently of how the brain transfers information; therefore, improving memory forthe patients. Many scientific experiments and projects have been completed to discover the extent ofthe power of music. Until 1970, research done on music had to do with studying effects thatrelates to the beat of the music. It was found that slow-paced music could slow the heartbeat andthe breathing rate as well as decrease blood pressure. Faster music was found to speed up thesesame measurements in the body. The key component of music that makes it positive to the brainis the order in which it is made. “The order of the music from the baroque and classical periods
Nay 4causes the brain to respond in special ways. This order includes repetition and changes, certainpatterns of rhythm, and pitch and mood contrasts” (O’Donnel). When the brain translates theorder of music it is a lot like doing a math problem in school. Once realized by the brain, themind starts performing more efficiently while listening to this ordered music. An example of thebrain figuring out the order in music is when the brain looks at different pieces of informationand decides if they are different or the same. By studying the biology of music, people could use music in areas where it produces vitalbenefits like the medical field. Normally after heart bypass surgery, the recipients oftenexperience irregular changes in blood pressure. These changes are always treated with differentdrugs. Recently though, studies have started to show that in intensive care units wherebackground music is played, the patients need lower amounts of the drugs compared to patientswith no music. It does not just stop there; hospitals also play background music in intensive careunits for premature babies. “Researchers have found that such music, as well as a nurses ormothers humming, helps babies to gain weight faster and to leave the unit earlier than babieswho dont hear these sounds” (Cromie). For the elderly, music is being used to calmAlzheimer’s patients. During their mealtimes in the hospitals, these people are difficult toorganize. By being difficult to organize fights occur, but with the right type of music theconfusion and disagreements are reduced. These are just a few of many practical reasons whymusic has such a strong effect on the mind. “The pleasing effect of melodies and harmonies are mediated by personal as well ascultural preference. It has been theorized that individuals are greatly influenced by the tonesfound in their native language which in turn influence their native music” (Sancar). Oncerealizing this, it easy to imply that individuals born into diverse cultures have brains which are
Nay 5formed to respond to different types of melodies. The brain reacts strongest to the music he wasculturally raised with. For music to cause an emotional response, the areas used in deciphering,learning, and remembering music must be linked to the areas producing an emotional response.In short terms this means to get an emotional response from a song, the brain needs to decipherand learn it to make a connection to its emotions. The main reason for people liking a certaintype of music all depends on which type produces the most endorphins. Also liking certain typesof music all depends on the mood that a person is currently in. Music has also been proven toactivate areas of the limbic system which are vital in producing pleasurable effects. It is thelimbic that releases endorphins to the brain. Having this information, there are more possibilitiesof using music therapy like for people who have depression in their lives. It is quite easy to see exactly how strong the power of music is and will become in thefuture. There have been many studies that have proven this. For example, a study shows thatstudents who study music in high school make better grades then those who do not. Thereasoning for this is that listening to music makes you think more efficiently and improves yourmemory. Society has relied on music so greatly that without music life would change as weknow it today. Every culture that has been created throughout history has some form of music,showing that music is fundamental to life. Even though people think of music as justentertainment it is really goes much deeper. Music is now being used as therapy which isradicalizing the way people think of sound. People can lower their blood pressure, findhappiness through depression, and recover through major surgery all by the power of music.
Nay 6 Works CitedMannes, Elena. "The Power Of Music To Affect the brain." NPR books.Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011.Web. 8 Sept. 2011. <http://www.npr.org/2011/06/01/ 136859090/the-power-of-music-to-affect-the-brain>.Joelving, Frederik. Scientific American. Scientific American, Inc., 2011. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/ post.cfm?id=new-research-explores-how----and-wh-2009-07-06>.Kirkweg, Sara B. "THE EFFECTS OF MUSIC ON MEMORY."ClearingHouse. Missouri Western State University, 1 May 2001. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. <http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/230.php>.ODonnell, Laurence. "Music and the Brain."Brain & Mind.Music Power, 1999. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. <http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n15/mente/ musica.html>.Cromie, William J. Harvard Gazette. Harvard College, 2002.Web. 8 Sept. 2011. <http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2001/03.22/04-music.html>.Sancar, Feyza. "Music and the Brain: Processing and Responding ."Biology 202. Serendip, 7 Jan. 2002. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. <http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/ bb/neuro/neuro99/web1/Sancar.html>.