I think we all know that music makes us feel better. Whether you're looking for energy, soothing, comforting or romance, music can definitely bring it! But exactly HOW does music affect the brain? And how can you use music more intentionally to benefit your brain, your mood, and your overall health?
Dr. Daniel Levitin has done extensive work in this area and has written a best-selling music entitled "This is Your Brain on Music."
"We're using music to better understand brain function in general," said Daniel Levitin, a prominent psychologist who studies the neuroscience of music at McGill University in Montreal.
According to CNN reporter Elizabeth Landau,
"Listening to music feels good, but can that translate into physiological benefit? Levitin and colleagues published a meta-analysis of 400 studies in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, suggesting the answer is yes.
In one study reviewed, researchers studied patients who were about to undergo surgery. Participants were randomly assigned to either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs. Scientists tracked patient's ratings of their own anxiety, as well as the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
The results: The patients who listened to music had less anxiety and lower cortisol than people who took drugs. Levitin cautioned that this is only one study, and more research needs to be done to confirm the results, but it points toward a powerful medicinal use for music.
"The promise here is that music is arguably less expensive than drugs, and it's easier on the body and it doesn't have side effects," Levitin said.
Levitin and colleagues also highlighted evidence that music is associated with immunoglobin A, an antibody linked to immunity, as well as higher counts of cells that fight germs and bacteria."
So what's next in this exciting field of the neuroscience of music? Levitin reports "
The next frontier in the neuroscience of music is to look more carefully at which chemicals in the brain are involved in music listening and performing, Levitin said, and in which parts of the brain are they active.
Any given neurochemical can have different function depending on its area of the brain, he said. For instance, dopamine helps increase attention in the frontal lobes, but in the limbic system it is associated with pleasure.
By using music as a window into the function of a healthy brain, researchers may gain insights into a slew of neurological and psychiatric problems, he said.
"Knowing better how the brain is organized, how it functions, what chemical messengers are working and how they're working -- that will allow us to formulate treatments for people with brain injury, or to combat diseases or disorders or even psychiatric problems."
Do NOT overlook the power of music to improve your brain, your life, and your health!