Your Memory and Music

This week, we’ll look into music’s effects on memory.200-3

Have you ever heard a song that triggered a memory of a very specific fact or relived a very specific moment? Me too, it’s weird, and I want to talk to you about why it happens. Let’s talk about the impact music has on memory, among other things. This particular post is geared more toward students and the like, but don’t feel discouraged to read if you aren’t one, I’ll be covering a few topics in an attempt to reach a few audiences.

Students listen to music for various reasons: stress relief, background noise during homework, to enhance workouts, bond with others, etc. They also listen to music to help alleviate anxiety and stress when engaged in complex cognitive processing, such as studying for a test or doing homework. Since you listen to music so much, might as well know what music does to help you, right?


According to Arielle S. Dolegui’s article “The Impact of Listening to Music on Cognitive Performance,” there is ambiguous evidence on the matter of the effects of music on performance. Most studies have shown that music does in fact improve on cognitive performance, but there is research that contradicts these findings. Finally, some sort of discrepancy in these findings! Basically, there are differing opinions on just how helpful music is while attempting to retain information. This is for all you students out there who listen to loud music while you’re reading a book. How! Do! You! Do! It! You guys are the future.

Anyway, some people claim music as distracting while performing cognitive tasks, according to Dolegui. However, she goes on to explain, the plethora of music genres available allow music listeners to find a genre that they can in fact concentrate with, and it’s important to know how those different genres impact performance. There unfortunately are not a ton of studies that examine exactly how the intensity or volume or type of music affects cognitive processing, but I’ll get into some long ago studies that were once conducted that offer up a little information.


I won’t go into crazy detail, but basically there was a study conducted a few decades ago that studied the effects of “sedative” and “stimulative” music, and the science people focused on the influence these different genres had on performance, anxiety, and concentration. The participants of this study chose their favorite genre and were asked to repeat some numbers backwards while they listened to the music. Overall, they did worse when repeating the numbers while listening to the music they liked, and they repeated them best with music. The music the participants chose as preferred was distracting when the participant was engaged in a cognitive task because their attention was on the lyrics, emotions, and memories the music invoked. Basically, if you want to get anything done, you have to Mozart it up so you don’t get distracted. That’s a real thing by the way, and it’s called the Mozart Effect, which is when you listen to Mozart either before performing or while performing a task, which induces short-term memory improvement. It’s also thought to boost IQ, which is why many parents have their children listen to Mozart while in the womb.


I don’t think I’ve delved too much into music’s main points of effect on memory, so I’ll do that now. According to “The Powerful Effects of Music in Memory Care,” music can stimulate the mind, energize the body, nurture the spirit, make a difference in caregiving, and be a bridge to communication. These points can really help a person who can no longer speak in full sentences, maybe due to old age or psychological and other mental issues. Music can really help people get people back to where they once were, it’s just  powerful.

All in all, music is a very powerful memory receptor. It can trigger old memories, but it can also help you retain yours! So next time you’re studying and the stakes aren’t too high, try putting on some different types of background music to see if anything helps you. If what you usually like to listen to is distracting, try going against the norm and listening to something like, oh say Mozart, for instance, and study your results. You may find yourself a new study habit.


Music’s effects on your emotions

Music has a tremendous effect on the human brain, body, and psyche. This first post will discuss the effects that music has on the brain and why. We’ll go over a few terms and ideas, and you can from there gather your opinions about the topic, and hopefully leave some comments and questions in the comment section that I can answer to the best of my ability for future posts. Now let’s get started!

Have you ever listened to a song that made you feel emotions like happiness or sadness or angry-ness? Have you ever wondered why? Well, me too, so here starts the blog. We’ll start with why music can make you happy, and other synonyms.

giphyAccording to “The Science Behind Why Music Makes Us Feel So Good” by Diane Koopman, the enjoyment of music is unique to humans because it isn’t necessary for us to survive, but it sure as heck helps the day go by. The reason upbeat music can make us happy is because music floods your brain with dopamine, the chemical in your brain associated with pleasure. Music, of course, has different effects on people depending on their individual tastes. Basically, how a song makes you feel depends on if you like it or not. Pretty simple. What isn’t so simple is this whole next part I’m about to write; “[Music] predicts the reward that you’ll feel from a given piece of music based on similar types of music you’ve heard before,” Virginia Hughes, National Geographic.
In other words, your brain tries to predict how a song will sound while you’re listening to it. If the song exceeds your brains predictions, you gon’ feel good. If your brain decides the song isn’t quite up to snuff, you’ll feel disappointed.

On to why music makes you feel a little sad sometimes!

giphy-1“Having a Bawl: Why Does Music Make People Cry?”, an article by Robert Barry, quotes American pragmatist and psychologist William James, “When listening to music we are often surprised at the cutaneous shiver which like a sudden wave flows over us, and at the heart swelling and lachrymal effusion that unexpectedly catches us at intervals.” If you just read that and said “what the f*ck”, same. In layman’s terms, listening to a good song sometimes sends a wave of goose bumps across your body and it might sound so good that you cry a little. Seems totally normal.

As for music making you angry?


Unless you really hate the person singing the song you’re listening to, music can’t make you angry. In fact, aggressive music can help you channel your aggression into the music you’re listening to, acting as an outlet for aggression, rather than leading to aggressive behavior.

Anyhow, here’s something interesting, according to LAWEEKLY’s article “Can Listening to Aggressive Music Make You an Aggressive person?” by Kristina Benson, your finger length can determine the impact aggressive music has on you. Benson says a study has shown that men whose index fingers are significantly shorter than their ring finger had been exposed to more testosterone while in utero. This is proof that aggressive music does nothing but shortens fingers that should be long.

You know what word I haven’t used in a long time? Aggressive.

Benefits of Music Therapy

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

This week, the focus of this blog is music therapy. I’ll tell you about what music therapy is and why it’s helpful, and maybe why some people think it’s not.

Music therapy is “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” –


Music therapy can do a lot of things for people, such as help in managing stress, alleviating pain, enhancing memory, accelerating in physical rehabilitation, and a bunch more probably. Some music therapies include movement and dance, and some is done at bedside, even when patients are in surgery. Music therapy can happen in a lot of different forms. Aside from listening to music, sometimes patients play the music, sometimes they write the music, sometimes they discuss the lyrics of the music they’re listening to.

Does it really work?

I think so. Here’s why:

Experts theorize that the brain is programmed to respond to music’s beat and rhythm, so a slow beat can slow down brain waves, while fast beats can stimulate the brain. The experts are only kinda experts though, because they haven’t completely tested out these theories. But! It’s a generally accepted medical truth that reducing stress can help symptoms subside, so, all in all, music helps.

Here are some facts from website articles Benefits of Music Therapy & Therapeutic Music for Patients and Music Therapy for Stroke. Music therapy is used for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, the addition of music has been reported to reduce nausea, ease tensions, alleviate pain, manage stress, and a bunch of other things. Music therapy can also help people recovering from a stroke and has the following benefits: increase patient movement, improve muscular control, improve cognition, etc. Music also helps to improve cancer and stroke patients’ moods by helping them relax and become motivated because it takes their mind off the pain of recovery.


Now here’s some science. Music Therapy for Stroke says that a recent scientific study has checked out the effects of music therapy on the overall health and wellbeing of patients and the results have been just tops. They’ve found that music therapy helps to alleviate depression and anxiety in patients, as well as increasing patient and caregiver satisfaction. However, since there isn’t a bunch of research on music therapy, it isn’t covered by most health insurance plans.

The reason why some people aren’t sold on the whole music therapy hippie dippy idea is because while there is research, there isn’t a ton of it. As a scientist, I guess it’s hard to really be behind something until there are volumes and volumes of data to back up a claim. Maybe some science people will read this blog and find out how great music therapy is and they’ll fund other science people to conduct more research on the topic. The possibilities are endless.