There is a whole area of research dedicated to how music affects your brain- it’s called neuromusicology. (what a great name!)
Music activates all areas of your brain and whether you are listening to it, playing it or humming it – music is a brain health must. Why? Music has been shown to make you happier, healthier and even more productive throughout life.
Those who play a lot of music, such a professional musicians, have been shown on brain scanning techniques to have bigger, better connected brains. But you don’t have to be listening to music or playing it full time to see benefits
In times of stress researchers have seen that by listening to and playing music, the stress hormone cortisol is lowered. And we don’t need researchers to confirm that listening to mood supporting music can help us feel happier, empowered, motivated and emotional.
One of the ways in which music does this is be stimulating a brain chemical- so called neuro transmitter- which helps brain cells communicate. Music stimulates dopamine which is a part of the in built reward mechanism. A feel good chemical (like we also get from eating chocolate)
And what scientists have further shown is that by when you have a playlist on shuffle mode, and one of your favourite tunes comes on, you experience a further surge of dopamine! Our brains really are amazing.
Some people swear by listening to music when they work or study and that can be a good thing as background music has been shown to make us more productive, feel happier at work and can even help us perform better in high pressure situations.
Whether you are on our own or in a group, playing or listening to music has been shown to help us be kinder and more inclined to spend time together, this has been seen in both adults and children – even as young as under 2
And what about music for little ones? Early music lessons have been shown to encourage brain plasticity- which as we know is the capacity for our brain to change and evolve that occurs although life – and blood flow to different parts of our children brains. But it doesn’t have to be learning concert pieces or Mozart, banging a drum or singing nursery rhymes are also a helpful way to encourage our little ones brains, and of course and interest in music.
But with all things brain health, there is no age to your OR old to benefit. There are proven social benefits to being part of a choir or music group for older people and even just listening to music has been shown to help memory in older adults
For those with conditions affecting their mental health, music can improve symptoms including those with anxiety, depression, PTSD and schizophrenia. Music has even been shown to help with reducing stress levels before and after surgery.
In these challenging times we need all the help we can get, so getting the tunes on is a great way to help us relax or maybe lift our mood, or motivated to get stuff done when we might be feeling overwhelmed.
Let us know any favourites on your playlist
Dr Clara Russell ( currently listening to the soundtrack of ‘Hamilton’ on repeat )