The Effects of Music on the Brain
Music has long been used by humans as a way to express themselves, connect with others and embrace their culture. Nowadays, research reveals that people can use music therapeutically for many mental health conditions.
Music therapy is the clinical application of music to achieve individual objectives, such as reducing stress, elevating moods and encouraging self-expression. This evidence-based practice has become well established within the health community and is now practiced around the globe.
Music therapy offers many benefits to participants, such as increased self-awareness and awareness of others, improved concentration and attention skills, enhanced memory recall and cognitive abilities (Keilly & Sutton, 2011). Although various kinds of music can be utilized in music therapy sessions without requiring any special skill or talent from them on the part of the participants, musical experiences do not need to be performed to reap any rewards.
Music therapy’s effectiveness depends on several factors, including the therapist’s experience and training, the patient’s mental state and what disorder or condition they are treating. For instance, in a study of Alzheimer’s patients with cognitive impairments, those who listened to music and verbally communicated with their therapist had greater improvements than those who only received standard care (Fukui et al., 2012).
Music can have a powerful effect on people’s emotions due to how our brains interpret sound waves and vibrations. Studies have discovered that parts of the cerebellum, front lobes and right temporal lobe are involved in processing music signals and decoding emotional meanings. When someone listens to music they may experience feelings such as happiness, increased alertness and reduced anxiety.
Entrainment theory suggests music has the ability to sync internal rhythms of the human body with musical ones, creating beneficial effects on mental and physical wellbeing by releasing dopamine, the happy chemical which makes us feel good, and endorphins, pain-relieving chemicals which provide us with a feeling of tranquility and relaxation.
This effect may also be caused by music’s powerful impact on the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for emotional processing. Entrainment occurs when vibrations from music reach our ears through the otoacoustic nerve.
In addition to the benefits of music therapy, research has demonstrated its efficacy in treating various disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, depression, fibromyalgia and anxiety. According to this study, participants experienced reduced symptoms with improved quality of life due to higher self-esteem levels and greater life satisfaction.
Studies have also demonstrated the therapeutic value of music therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder, with studies finding it to reduce depression and PTSD symptoms in military service members returning from war zones. Furthermore, a study revealed that listening to music reduced postoperative anxiety more effectively than other methods of managing postsurgical anxiety without medication.