Music is something we all understand. It is there to accompany us in our times of joy and sadness. It’s also like a universal language. Through this, we can connect to other people in a more meaningful and deeper sense. But, there might be something we’re missing out on about music – the fact that it benefits our brain in different ways.
Recent research shows that music can help in many aspects of the brain. From the book “The Power of Music,” filmmaker and author Elena Mannes states that “Scientists have found that music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function.” Here’s what scientists have found out over the years.
- It reduces pain
A study in 2014 by researcher Garza-Villareal et al. found out that music was helpful for patients with fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, mood, and memory issues. Their study showed that listening to relaxing music of the patient’s choice “reduced pain and increased functional mobility significantly.” They believe that music eases pain because doing so triggers opioids – the body’s natural pain relievers.
This alone gives power to the American singer-songwriter Billy Joel’s words on music, “I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we’re all touched by.”
- It relieves stress
Depending on the type of music you’re listening to, relaxing music can help reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels, which is the hormone released in response to stress.
This finding has been supported by the study of JAMA Pediatrics, a medical journal in 2013. Their study demonstrated a connection between music and decreased stress in pediatric emergency room patients. With 42 children ages, 3 to 11, the University of Alberta researchers found that patients who listened to relaxing music while getting an IV inserted reported significantly lesser pain. Some even reported significantly less distress, compared with patients who did not listen to music at all.
- It helps recall memory
A documentary released in 2014 entitled “Alive Inside” shows how music can awaken and revitalize individuals suffering from memory loss. Neurologist Oliver Sacks said, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory. It brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”
To further give foundation to Sacks’ statement, a study in 2014 by researcher Särkämö et al. was conducted on 89 patients with dementia. The patient and caregivers were randomly assigned either a 10-week music listening coaching group, a 10-week singing coach group, or regular care. This resulted in “compared with usual care, both singing and music listening improved mood, orientation, and remote episodic memory and to a lesser extent, also attention and executive function and general cognition. Singing also enhanced short-term and working memory and caregiver well-being, whereas music listening positively affected the quality of life.”
- It helps recovery from seizure or stroke
There have been reports that the brains of patients with epilepsy respond differently to music than people who do not have epilepsy. Researcher Christine Charyton from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center said that “Persons with epilepsy synchronize before a seizure. However, in our study, patients with epilepsy synchronized to the music without having a seizure.” She also added that many patients reported that they felt relaxed by listening to music.
Researcher Särkämö also studied stroke patients in 2008. He suggested that patients start listening to music soon after the stroke, as many changes can occur during the first weeks and months of recovery. In this study, he was able to find out that three months after the stroke, there’s an improvement in verbal memory from the first week post-stroke by 60 percent in music listeners.
Knowing all of these, I think we can all agree that music is indeed wonderful and it’s more than just the art we enjoy. It’s also something great that was invented to have such benefits in our health and well-being. It connects us to other people and our body and mind in one good condition.