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... Because it's All in Your Mind!


Brain and Memory Boosting Benefits of Music

Music Piano - Marc Biarnes

For many of us, music is a vital component in our everyday lives.  It lifts us up when we’re down, energizes us when we need that extra pop, soothes us when we’re angry, and gets us in the mood when we need a little romance. It’s been said that music is the soundtrack of our lives. There are many different uses for music, but did you know that music provides benefits to our memory and brain health?  It does.  Here are some of the benefits of music to your memory and brain health: 

Helps with Recall - As mentioned above, music is the soundtrack of our lives. It truly supports the recall and formation of memories. We associate music with moments in time, people, and activities. Certain songs become strong anchors that connect our experiences.  The more often we play a song, the stronger the memory moment becomes. Listening to a song years later will bring back a flood of memories and emotions. Research with seniors has shown that music can be an excellent tool to unearth long lost memories and even keep existing memories sharp. A number of recent studies where music was used to help dementia patients have revealed promising results.
Increases focus - Focus is a vital component to improving your ability to store and recall information. Most of us have B.S.O.S. (Bright Shiny Object Syndrome) which makes it difficult remember things.  Music has been shown to increase our ability to focus. There are two schools of thought when determining what music is the best when trying to be more focused.  Once school of thought is to use classical music, Baroque type (composed in 1600 to 1750) being the most recommended. There’s plenty of research to support it. Recent research from a French university, published in Learning and Individual Differences, found that students who listened to a one-hour lecture where classical music was played in the background scored significantly higher in a quiz on the lecture when compared to a similar group of students who heard the lecture with no music. 
The other school of thought recommends that we use music that is pleasing and familiar. Research has shown that once our brain is familiar with a tune, then it no longer focuses on anticipating the next note. This results in the music becoming background which helps us focus on the task at hand.  Low to medium volume also tends to be best for increasing focus.
Enhances Creativity – Your brain in creative state is much different than when it is in focused state. In focused state, you can continue to execute the tasks required to get things done.  When you’re in creative state, your brain tends to wander from idea to idea. The term Mind-Wandering Mode was coined by Washington University neurologist Marcus Raichle in 2001. Mind-Wandering Mode is the default mode for the brain. When in this mode you can feel recharged and continuously come up with creative ideas. The key is to relax and let go of the problem at hand. Playing music that allows you to enter Mind-Wandering Mode is key. While a particular type of music has not been specified for increasing creativity, the pacing and volume has. British CBT & Counseling clinical psychologist and researcher Emma Gray found, as part of a Spotify sponsored project, that upbeat music with 50-80 beats per minute was the best pacing for creativity. In regards to volume, the University of Helsinki’s research found that lower volume was considered better for creativity while loud music hindered it.  
Boosts Mood - Our mood is connected to our memory, our health, and our productiveness in everything that we do.  The right music can electrify us and roll us into a busy day. Other music can help us get into a confident and focused state. According to researchers at McGill University, in Montreal, their 2011 study revealed that listening to pleasurable music of any description induced “musical chills”, which triggered the release of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that mediates pleasure in the brain. In addition, some researchers theorize that two components make up the base of mood boosting properties of music. They are rhythm and tone. When we listen to rhythm, our heart synchs with it. Slow rhythm slows the heartbeat and triggers the brain to be in a more somber mood. Very fast rhythm cranks up our heartbeat and triggers excitement. Regarding tones, a major key piece of music signals sparkly cheer to our brain while a minor key tends to signal a more somber and introspective focus.
Reduces Stress – Extended periods of anxiety and stress have been shown to have short and long term effects on memory and overall health. Music has been used as a stress reducer since the beginning of time. There is a plethora of studies that support the support the anxiety reduction effects of music. In one study, researchers followed patients who were about to undergo surgery. The patients either received an anti anxiety drug or listened to music. Scientists tracked patient's ratings of their own anxiety, as well as the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The results revealed that the patients who listened to music had lower anxiety and cortisol levels than the anxiety drug takers.  Music therapy has also been used to help veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to Dr. Mary Rorro, ”when music reaches the brain’s auditory cortex, there’s communication between the cortex and the brain’s areas that control emotion, memory, and motor control. “At times, music can serve as a springboard during PTSD support group discussions where you can feel the weight of some of the emotional state of the group.” Besides just the physical elements of music, its form and structure can provide order and security which is also a vehicle for reducing stress.
These are just a few of the benefits that music can have on your brain and memory. Take the time to listen every day. Assign a purpose to some of the music you’re listening to and you will increase its benefits. It will pay huge dividends today and in the future. For more information on music and memory, contact Memory Spring at 530-297-6464.