Music has a tremendous effect on the human brain, body, and psyche. This first blog post will discuss the effects that music has on the brain and why.
Listening to music has quite the effect on the brain, triggering a range of emotions. Different ways that you can experience music also varies the emotions you’ll feel. So, if you’re listening to live music at a concert versus listening to instrumentals, these will garner different reactions from your brain. To begin, I’ll discuss the idea that music can make you happy.
According to “The Science Behind Why Music Makes Us Feel So Good” by Diane Koopman, depending on the individual, upbeat music can make us happy because music makes your brain produce extra dopamine, the chemical associated with pleasure. From the same article, Virginia Hughes of National Geographic says that the brain “predicts the reward that you’ll feel from a given piece of music based on similar types of music you’ve heard before. If you like it better than predicted, it registers as intense pleasure. If you feel worse than predicted, you feel bored or disappointed.” Your brain is sort of programmed to enjoy certain music which is based on past music you’ve listened to.
Your brain also decides if it’s happy when it hears music tied to certain memories. Molly Edmond’s article “Is there a link between music and happiness?” explains that the frontal and temporal lobes process sounds, “deciphering things like rhythm, pitch and melody.” Songs with words “can activate our visual cortex,” as well as “trigger neurons in the motor complex, leading you to tap your foot and boogie.” When your brain tries to figure out where a song is going based on other music you’ve heard, sometimes it can remember other music that you’ve experienced an eventful moment in your life. Triggering memory lights up the medial prefrontal cortex, where memory is stored.
Music sometimes makes you feel sad too.
“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.” In layman’s terms, listening to a new song is sometimes so enjoyable that it sends a wave of goose bumps over you, a shiver up your spine, and a tear down your cheek. Edmonds also says that sad music sols the pulse and raises blood pressure which might make you think that only happy music is beneficial, “but those that know the value of a good cry or cathartic release may find that sad or angry music can bring about happiness indirectly.”
This brings us to the last emotion, anger. Music doesn’t make you angry or aggressive, in fact it can do just the opposite. “Listening to ‘extreme’ music makes you calmer, not angrier, according to study” tells us that “loud and chaotic music” is actually a healthy way to process anger. This article is addressing heavy metal music, but we can assume it goes for most “aggressive” music because it matches your aggression and in turn acts as an outlet.
LAWEEKLY’s article “Can Listening to Aggressive Music Make You an Aggressive Person? by Kristina Benson provides some interesting insight in this article. She says that finger length moderates the impact of aggressive music. She explains that “men whose index fingers were significantly shorter than their ring fingers had been exposed to more testosterone while in utero.” This means that a man with a shorter index finger is more prone to aggression, so if they were to hear aggressive music, they are more likely to become a bit aggressive while listening to said music. Food for thought?