Your Brain on Music

your brain on music
Music is the great equalizing art form: many people find visual art opaque, get bored by live theater, don’t watch movies anymore, and with the Kardashians franchise taking over, it’s hard to call a lot of TV “artistic.”
But everyone listens to music. From babies and toddlers singing along to Raffi’s “Baby Beluga,” to your eighty-year-old grandpa humming Sam Cooke; it’s safe to say that everyone likes some kind of music. Most people even learn to play an instrument–whether remedially as a requirement for school, or professionally. And recent studies have shown that music is not just good for enjoyment, entertainment or relaxation; listening to–and even, more importantly, learning to play–music is actually beneficial for brain development.
According to “This Is Your Brain. This Is Your Brain on Music,” a segment on NPR, The Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University found that giving kids music lessons helps in language development and processing, which is especially necessary for kids that are growing up underprivileged in homes ravaged by violence, drug abuse, or where both parents are mostly absent and not engaging with their kids–and thus not introducing their brains to enough language.
But even just listening to music can radically alter the way your brain communicates with itself–for the better! CNN reports on a study that showed that music worked better than anti-anxiety drugs in lowering anxiety and cortisol levels in people being prepped for major surgery–a pretty big plus for music! You may remember hearing a rumor that listening to classical music–and in particular, Mozart–can make you smarter. While this isn’t technically true, the link between listening to any kind of music and heightened brain activity is becoming clearer: Johns Hopkins Medicine says that music can keep “your brain young” and give you a “total brain workout” since your brain actually has a lot of computing to do to make sense of it.
Be sure to try out different genres, though. fMRIs–essentially brain scans–show that the more you listen to a certain type of music, the more likely you are to like that music. But new music can challenge the brain in a way that familiar music can’t, forcing you to make new connections in order to make sense of it. So if you’ve always been a classical person, try popping on a jazz record; if you only listen to 90s R&B, give klezmer a try! Just like going to the
gym, you may not like it at first, but…it does the brain good!