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Music benefits the brain in so many ways!

September 30th, 2014 · how the brain works, music and the brain

We all know that music makes us feel great!  Pretty much everyone on the planet has some kind of music that they really, really like and that they respond to immediately!  And the good news is, the music that you like, and respond to, and choose over and over, is the very music that is going to be best for YOUR brain. There is no doctor or health professional or clinical musicologist that can tell you what music will be best for your brain.  We might be able to suggest some things, based on you symptoms, age, and background, but YOU will always know what music is best for you! Studies that have just come out this year (2014) have shown yet again, that music powerfully fosters brain plasticity, provides an alternative educational tool, and can treat learning disabilities.  Knowing this, getting involved in some kind of music making is so important for you.  Can't carry a tune in a bucket?  Pick up a hand drum or a tambourine or a shaker of some kind.  Do you love to sing?  There are church choirs, civic choirs, and local music theaters widely available.  Love to play your old clarinet, trumpet or violin?  There are orchestras and bands available in your town or the next one over that would love to have you!  Or do you play guitar or piano?  Start a garage band or just get together with friends and enjoy the fun of jamming for a few hours. Medscape is a great resource for articles and research on music and the brain.  Enjoy this one!

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What one, natural, phenomenon can calm anxiety, improve mood and help learning?

August 26th, 2014 · how the brain works, music and the brain

You know the answer to this one:  it's music!!  It's the one thing that, although pleasurable, is not JUST pleasurable.  Think about it:  looking at beautiful art, eating delicious food, and smelling glorious smells are wonderful, and they MAY decrease anxiety or improve your mood...but do they help you with studying, learning and focusing? And within the art form of music, there is endless variety.  You probably have your favorite type or types of music that you listen to when you want to relax or chill for awhile.  But if you want to use music for a very specific purpose, such as increasing focus while you do an important intellectual task, or to improve your memory for a specific set of information, such as saying the alphabet in the correct sequence, you need to know where to look to find the information you need! The article below would be a good source for that and was written in 2014.   Enjoy, and be sure to let me know if you have any questions I can answer for you! MUSIC and MOOD
Music’s beneficial effects on mental health have been known for thousands of years. Ancient philosophers from Plato to Confucius and the kings of Israel sang the praises of music and used it to help soothe stress. Military bands use music to build confidence and courage. Sporting events provide music to rouse enthusiasm. Schoolchildren use music to memorize their ABCs. Shopping malls play music to entice consumers and keep them in the store. Dentists play music to help calm nervous patients. Modern research supports conventional wisdom that music benefits mood and confidence. Because of our unique experiences, we develop different musical tastes and preferences. Despite these differences, there are some common responses to music. Babies love lullabies. Maternal singing is particularly soothing, regardless of a mom’s formal musical talents or training. Certain kinds of music make almost everyone feel worse, even when someone says she enjoys it; in a study of 144 adults and teenagers who listened to 4 different kinds of music, grunge music led to significant increases in hostility, sadness, tension, and fatigue across the entire group, even in the teenagers who said they liked it. In another study, college students reported that pop, rock, oldies, and classical music helped them feel happier and more optimistic, friendly, relaxed, and calm.

Music, Attention, and Learning

Everyone who has learned their ABCs knows that it is easier to memorize a list if it is set to music. Scientific research supports common experience that pairing music with rhythm and pitch enhances learning and recall. Music helps children and adolescents with attention problems in several ways. First, it can be used as a reward for desired behavior. For example, for paying attention to homework for 10 minutes, a child can be rewarded with the opportunity to listen to music for 5 minutes. Second, it can be used to help enhance attention to “boring” academic tasks such as memorization, using songs, rhythms, and dance or movement to enhance the interest of the lists to be memorized. Instrumental baroque music is great for improving attention and reasoning. For students, playing background music is not distracting. Third, musical cues can be used to help organize activities – one kind of music for one activity (studying), another for a different activity (eating), and a third kind for heading to bed. Fourth, studies show that calming music can promote pro-social behavior and decrease impulsive behavior.

Music and Anxiety

Many people find familiar music comforting and calming. In fact, music is so effective in reducing anxiety, it is often used in dental, preoperative, and radiation therapy settings to help patients cope with their worries about procedures. Music helps decrease anxiety in the elderly, new mothers, and children too. Music’s ability to banish worries is illustrated in the Rogers and Hammerstein lyrics, “Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect And whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect I’m afraid… And every single time, the happiness in the tune convinces me that I’m not afraid.” Any kind of relaxing, calming music can contribute to calmer moods. Calming music can be combined with cognitive therapy to lower anxiety even more effectively than conventional therapy alone. Some studies suggest that specially designed music, such as music that includes tones that intentionally induce binaural beats to put brain waves into relaxed delta or theta rhythms, can help improve symptoms in anxious patients even more than music without these tones; listening to this music without other distractions (not while driving, cooking, talking, or reading) promotes the best benefits.

Music and Moods

An analysis of 5 studies on music for depression concluded that music therapy is not only acceptable for depressed patients, but it actually helps improve their moods. Music has proven useful in helping patients with serious medical illnesses such as cancer, burns, and multiple sclerosis who are also depressed. If it can help in these situations, it may be able to help you and your loved ones experience more positive moods.

Music and Sleep

Many people listen to soothing music to help them fall asleep. This practice is supported by studies in a variety of settings. Just don’t try listening to lively dance music or rousing marches before you aim to fall asleep. Conversely, if you’re trying to wake up in the morning, go for the fast-tempo music rather than lullabies.

Music and Stress

Since ancient times, it has been known that certain kinds of music can help soothe away stress. Calming background music can significantly decrease irritability and promote calm in elderly nursing home patients with dementia. Music, widely chosen, lowers stress hormone levels. On the other hand, every parent of a teenager knows that certain kinds of music, particularly at high volumes, can induce stress. Knowing that certain kinds of music can alleviate stress is one thing; being mindful in choosing what kind of music to listen to is another. Choose your musical intake as carefully as you choose your food and friends.
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Mental Health, Naturally: The Family Guide to Holistic Care for a Healthy Mind and Body (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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Neuroscience and Music: Early music lessons highly recommended

July 22nd, 2014 · how the brain works, music and the brain

The 90's were called the Era of the Brain.  Many people believed that the brain was the last unexplored frontier and today, in 2014, people are still learning fascinating and very useful things about how music affects the brain.  For years, people have known that when little children are exposed to music, especially music lessons, they seem to do better academically for the rest of their school lives.  Studying music helps to organize the brain and encourages logical and relational thinking.  Once these skills are begun, then the individual can break away knowledgeably and begin to improvise, compose their own music and practice, practice, practice. Today, a friend sent me a new article about all of this, and I wanted to share it with my readers! "How Playing Music Affects the Developing Brain"   | , WBUR, Boston Remember “Mozart Makes You Smarter”? A 1993 study of college students showed them performing better on spatial reasoning tests after listening to a Mozart sonata. That led to claims that listening to Mozart temporarily increases IQs — and to a raft of products purporting to provide all sorts of benefits to the brain. In 1998, Zell Miller, then the governor of Georgia, even proposed providing every newborn in his state with a CD of classical music. But subsequent research has cast doubt on the claims. Ani Patel, an associate professor of psychology at Tufts University and the author of “Music, Language, and the Brain,” says that while listening to music can be relaxing and contemplative, the idea that simply plugging in your iPod is going to make you more intelligent doesn’t quite hold up to scientific scrutiny. “On the other hand,” Patel says, “there’s now a growing body of work that suggests that actually learning to play a musical instrument does have impacts on other abilities.” These include speech perception, the ability to understand emotions in the voice and the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Patel says this is a relatively new field of scientific study. “The whole field of music neuroscience really began to take off around 2000,” he says. “These studies where we take people, often children, and give them training in music and then measure how their cognition changes and how their brain changes both in terms of its processing [and] its structure, are very few and still just emerging.” Patel says that music neuroscience, which draws on cognitive science, music education and neuroscience, can help answer basic questions about the workings of the human brain. “How do we process sequences with complex hierarchical structure and make sense of them?” he asks. “How do we integrate sensation and action? How do we remember long and difficult sequences of information? These are fundamental neuroscience questions, and music can help us answer some of these questions, because it’s in some ways simpler than language, but it’s still of sufficient complexity that it can address these very deep and important aspects of human brain function.” In addition, Patel says music neuroscience research has important implications about the role of music in the lives of young children. “If we know how and why music changes the brain in ways that affect other cognitive abilities,” he says, “this could have a real impact on the value we put on it as an activity in the schools, not to mention all the impact it has on emotional development, emotional maturity, social skills, stick-to-itiveness, things we typically don’t measure in school but which are hugely important in a child’s ultimate success.”

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How Music Affects the Brain

June 9th, 2014 · how the brain works, music and the brain

We all know that music makes us feel good.  Sometimes it makes us feel REALLY good, even ecstatic!  Music is one of the greatest, totally free gifts that God has given us, but have you ever wondered what actually goes on in your brain to make you feel so fantastic??  Here's a wonderful explanation that was originally found at  Enjoy!! Sometimes, watching a musician perform live can make us mere listeners feel like they have superpowers. Now, new research suggests brief musical training increases blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain, but there are other benefits for listeners, too. Researchers from the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Liverpool in the UK conducted two different studies to investigate how musical training affects the flow of blood to the brain. They say their findings, which they presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Birmingham, UK, suggest the areas in charge of music and language share common pathways in the brain. In early 2014, Medical News Today reported on a study that revealed brain scans of jazz musicians showed similarities between language and music. Researchers from that study said the brain likely uses its syntactic regions to process all communication - whether spoken or through music. In the first of two studies, student Amy Spray and her mentor, Dr. G. Meyer, looked for brain activity patterns in 14 musicians and nine non-musicians while they engaged in music and word generation assignments. The team found that brain patterns for the musicians were similar in both tasks, whereas, for the non-musicians, this was not the case.
Musical training causes a change in the cognitive mechanisms used for music perception, and these are usually used in processing language, researchers say.
In the second study, the investigators measured brain activity patterns in a different group of non-musicians who took part in word generation and music perception tasks. After initial measurements were taken, the team then took measurements once the participants had received 30 minutes of musical training. The musical training, say the researchers, consisted of learning to tap three polyrhythms - two or more rhythms not constructed from the same meter that are played at the same time - with their fingers. In the measurements taken before the training, the team observed that there were no significant brain activity patterns of correlation. However, after the musical training, they did find "significant similarities." "It was fascinating to see that the similarities in blood flow signatures could be brought about after just half an hour of simple musical training," says Spray. She concludes:
?"This suggests that the correlated brain patterns were the result of using areas thought to be involved in language processing. Therefore we can assume that musical training results in a rapid change in the cognitive mechanisms utilized for music perception and these shared mechanisms are usually employed for language." But music can do so much more, notes Michael Huckabee, professor and director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center Division of Physician Assistant Education. In an article about the benefits of music on human health, he writes: ?"Music does something beyond our understanding. We can call it an endorphin release or a distraction, but it goes much deeper than that. Somehow music just does us good. And the good it does was just proven to be better." He speaks of a finding from researchers in Taiwan, who recently reviewed over 360 published studies on music therapy and concluded the data from these studies suggest cancer patients who routinely listen to music exhibit significantly fewer symptoms of depression, pain, fatigue and anxiety.

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How can YOU use music to help your brain?

May 8th, 2014 · how the brain works, music and the brain

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!

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