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Music’s Effects On Your Emotions (Revision)

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.

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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.

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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.”

200-2This 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?

Oh Joy! Time to Listen to Your Kids Play “Music” at Home

(Issue Series 3)

Kids and music recitals. We’ve all been there.

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All jokes aside, I’ve discussed in quite a bit of detail the benefits of music therapy for people in medical rehabilitation, for people with autism and other special needs, and for children in school settings. Now it’s time to discuss music and kids in the one place you’d never want to see them, your own home.

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There are tons of blogs and Pinterest pages dedicated to music therapy for the home. Listening to music is already such a calming and meditative activity, but music therapy is “a targeted way to help improve people’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being,” according to Music Therapy Techniques to Try at Home. Music therapy can impact both the cognitive domain and the social domain of a child’s brain. What does that mean, you ask? Who knows. Google don’t fail me now..

OK so basically, music therapy strengthens a child’s mental capabilities and motor skills because music utilizes every part of the brain. Music therapy also has the ability to help kids learn to share and be in an environment with other kids without getting sensory overload. OK, maybe not that last bit, but I’m sure it certainly helps.

Parents don’t even have to be wicked talented because, I mean, what does a kid know? Unless you have a child prodigy who has perfect pitch, they probably won’t mind your off-key singing a whole bunch. Music therapist Erin Benaim says “music therapy is also really accessible to children, as kids typically find music enjoyable and non-threatening.” In case you have a kid here’s a tip she offers; match upbeat music to your child’s energy and gradually shift to slow mellow songs in order to calm a child.

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Kids are crazy and they’re all about routine, so this next site lets you know to do that. Setting Up a Music Routine at Home gives us tips on some much needed structure for bouncy kids. This process is broken up into four parts; make a musical plan, set the structure, gather your stuff, and bring on the music. To break this down, you want to have a song for every activity you do in your home, I’m talking a movement song, a greeting song, a farewell song, the whole enchilada. The structure is probably the most important part of this. Without structure, you as a parent or guardian will fail.

Just kidding!

But also hey I don’t know you, maybe you will fail.

Back to business, consistency is key! Do your routines in the same places at the same times. The structure is very necessary, especially for young children. Set aside a specific amount of time and tuck away distractions. Music therapy has to be a special place reserved only for music therapy.

The ‘gather your stuff’ tip is pretty self explanatory, but I’ll explain it just in case. Have your music, instruments, and whatever else you need with you. Disruption during the specified time period will mess up what you have going. And lastly, bring on the music!

Good luck and God bless.

Should Teachers Be Required to Have Musical Training for the Purposes of Music Therapy in the Classroom?

(Issue Series 2)

Ah, the age-old question.

Many schools have done away with music programs.

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This is a bummer.

Music is what life is all about. Let’s start with some cold hard facts. Or at least assumptions.

Music is a great outlet for people and is especially helpful in schools. Here are a just few of the many benefits, according to 20 Important Benefits of Music in Our Schools:

  • Musical training helps develop language and reasoning
  • Increased coordination
  • Emotional development
  • Students learn pattern-recognition
  • Musical instruments can teach discipline
  • Better self-confidence

The point of this list is to show you that music is a really important thing to feature in the classroom. For this post, I’d like to question whether all teachers should be required to have knowledge of music so that any teacher can engage in music therapy when need be. Since music is not a part of many schools’ curriculums, I think it should be introduced where it can and when it can.

Now let’s look at why teachers educated in music are beneficial to the school system. According to Why Preschool Teachers Need Music Education in Their Classrooms, Wendy L. Sims, Ph.D. says that it is important to provide musical environments for young preschool age children because “this is a critical period of growth in their musical skills and understanding.” Music provides a basis for interest in learning, and music therapy is a creative outlet in which children can release anxiety and get in tune with themselves.

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Dr. Sims goes on to explain that many early educators are ill-equipped in implementing music education into the classroom. “Often child development or early childhood education programs do not require even basic music proficiency or music teaching methods coursework in their curricula,” says Dr. Sims. Basically, preschool educators are not required to know a thing in regards to music. Playing soothing music during nap time is not enough to stimulate a child’s mind. They need to participate in music in order to gain skills and knowledge that they can use toward the future to solve problems and deal with anxieties.

Though it is not a required part of the curriculum and teachers are not necessarily trained in music, many engage their students by singing songs during group time (usually first thing in the morning and again toward the end of the day), move and dance with students, provide a music center where children can explore sound making objects, etc. This allows students a creative outlet while improving their academic performance and student engagement.

Why wouldn’t we teach music in schools? It’s literally proven to improve test scores, increase IQ, and help with language development, among a bunch of other things, according to The Benefits of Music Education.

So, back to the question at hand; should teachers be required to have musical training? What do you think? I think yes. I mean, it wouldn’t hurt. It would almost help. Even if funding is the problem, maybe this solution can take out the middle man of music teachers themselves so it’s kind of a win-win for the school system. Kids receive their much needed musical outlet, and teachers are well equipped to give them this outlet.

Is Music Therapy Really All That Useful to Children with Autism?

(Issue Series 1)

Short answer to the title question, yes.

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Music therapy, we’ve learned, is awesome. It helps people deal with all sorts of issues, mental and physical. For children with autism and other special needs, music therapy does a heck of a lot. According to Music Therapy May Help Children with Autism, music helps promote wellness by managing stress, enhancing memory, and improving communication. Music therapy has been shown to improve social behaviors, increase communication, reduce anxiety, and improve body awareness and coordination. Kids suffering from autism spectrum disorders (ASD) respond really well to music, especially when little else is able to gather their attention.

According to 5 Reasons Why Music Therapy Helps Children with Special Needs, music does one of the following five things at any given time:

  1. Music motivates. Children give up so easily. The slightest inconvenience will send them into frantic mode with temper tantrums galore (sound familiar, college students?). Music can help this type of problem out a bunch. Music is a top motivator for children with special needs. It can help them develop motor skills by practicing with instruments that require different muscle patterns and thought processes. Singing songs during especially challenging activities also help children by making them more willing to work through their problem. If a song follows a pattern, the child will follow the pattern, like the clean-up song. You know how it goes, “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere! Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.”
  2. Music is a Multi-Sensory Experience. Imagine, if you will, a child playing a drum. Several senses are being activated. The tactile system, which is the child feeling the drumstick in their hand. The kinesthetic system, which is the child moving their arm to hit the drum. The visual system, which is the child watching their hand move to the drum to hit it. And the auditory system, which is, you guessed it, the child listening to the sound the drum makes as they hit it.
  3. Music is Processed in Both Hemispheres of the Brain. Music is actually one of the only activities that engages the whole brain at one time. Wild.
  4. Music is Non-verbal. Words often fail kids. If you’ve ever talked to a kid, you know what I’m talking about. Their limited vocabulary, coupled with their anxiousness surrounding new activities and emotions, is a recipe for disaster. Music helps children fill in the blanks that words fail to. It’s a really cool experience to connect and communicate without words, so when you have a non-verbal child around, this is an easy way to get them out of their shell.
  5. Music Helps You Bond. Music is a good way to bond with children. You’ve seen those earphones meant for pregnant bellies, yes? Well those are used because music is mad important in a child’s development! Oxytocin, also known as the “bonding” or “cuddle” hormone (aw!) is released when you listen to or make music, so it’s only natural that you engage in music with your child. Singing to or with them or dancing with them to their favorite song is bonding. Break out the dance moves and the falsetto.

These are great ways to connect with children and to motivate them to engage in activities and develop new skills. This is incredibly helpful to children with special needs, because they sometimes need more help getting comfortable with new surroundings and situations. Music provides a fun, engaging, and stress-free alternative to the dreaded ice-breakers we all once endured on the first day of class. What a way to bring a kid out of their shell!

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What Your Brain Does When Your Ears Hear Music

In this week’s lesson, I’m going to talk to you about what parts of the brain are affected by music and what processes they go through when they are exposed to music. I’m going to use a lot of technical terms, try to stay with me. I’ll break it down as much as I can, but heads up, I’m just as confused as you will be soon enough.

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Several parts of your brain are activated when you listen to music, see the above photo and see if you can locate ‘em all! Listening to, playing, reading, and creating music involves just about every part of your brain. According to Daniel J. Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music:

…listening to music first involves subcortical structures like cochlear nuclei, the                                brain stem, and the cerebellum. It then moves up the auditory cortices on both sides of the brain. And when you hear music, listening also involves the memory centers in the brain, such as the hippocampus and lowest parts of the frontal lobe. Tapping along with the music gets your cerebellum involved. Reading music involves the visual cortex, and listening to or recalling lyrics will involve language centers in the temporal and frontal lobes.

Wow, what an eyeful, am I right? Basically, different actions concerning the way your brain is introduced to music activate different parts of your brain. I’ve already said that a bunch, but it’s good to reiterate so that I really get the point across to you, the reader.

Musicians are pretty tight, because since playing music takes co-ordination of motor control, most musicians have a greater ability to use both hands (ambidexterity). Have you ever noticed that one of your hands is kind of stupid? If you’re right handed and not a musician, try to make your left hand do something that your right can do with ease, like writing your name.

Go on, try.

It’s not easy is it?

This is an easier feat for musicians because the brain fibers that connect your motor areas to your left and right brain are thickened, allowing better and more viable connections. Music also affects the way that your brain is able to learn, allowing neuroplasticity (the brain’s capacity to change) to help your brain increase the size of your auditory and motor cortex.

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A little further break down on which parts of the brain music affects, according to “What Parts of the Brain Are Stimulated by Music?”, the auditory cortex is mainly part of the temporal lobe of the brain, slightly above your ears. Try to find it! The brain cells in the auditory cortex are organized by sound frequencies. It analyzes the volume, pitch, speed, rhythm, and melody of music. The cerebrum stimulates the part of the brain that recalls memories associated when you remember lyrics. The cerebellum helps create smooth, flowing, and integrated movements when you hear or play music. And the limbic system, where we’ll cap it off, is the part of the brain that reacts emotionally to music. This is the thing that sends chills up your spine and lets you experience happiness, sadness, pleasure, etc.

Basically, the temporal and frontal lobes start processing the sounds of music and your brain cells do the rest of the work by deciphering the melody, the rhythm, and the pitch. In a few final words to bring this whole post together, different parts of your brain are affected when you listen to music, and your brain releases dopamine when you hear music, allowing you to feel good. So the lesson is, listen to more music!

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.