There is no denying that music speaks to many people in a way that words cannot. Music is a universal language that gives movie scores a dramatic edge, amps up athletes before a big game, unifies thousands of people in song and dance, and it can even make our brains healthier. Listening to music is not just another way to pass the time, it can be very therapeutic.
How Music Effects Brain Health
Music can be instrumental in keeping your brain sharp. According to the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, music helps connect the brain circuit known as the default mode network. This circuit is involved in internally focused thought, empathy and self-awareness. If you’ve ever been able to sit and listen to a song that really speaks to you, this should come as no surprise. When you are enthralled with a particular song, you can feel the rhythm in your body and the lyrics or melody tap into your emotions. But during a study conducted by Jonathan Burdette, M.D, a neuroradiologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, not just any music did the trick. Participants of the study had the most connection in this region of the brain when they were listening to their favorite genre, band or song. The brain region did not appear to be connected when the participants were listening to the music they disliked. The fascinating study also found that when you listen to some of your favorite tunes, the connectivity between the auditory brain area and the region responsible for memory and social/emotion consolidation is heightened.
The Rewards of Music Theory
When so much can be gained from listening to music, it is no wonder that many are calling for this pastime to be a part of your daily brain health routine. Whether you are trying to keep your brain sharp or restore function after a stroke or other injury, turning to something passive and familiar can be very healing. “If you’re trying to restore neuroplasticity in the brain, to re-establish some of the connections that were there before the injury,” states Dr. Burdette. “Music can be a big help.”
If you’ve ever turned on the radio to hear an unexpected blast from your past, it is obvious how powerful that feeling of nostalgia can be when you hear an old song. You may begin to sing along, start to sway with the familiar beat or even feel a smile creep across your face as associated memories come flooding back. There has been growing evidence to support the idea that music can help those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Sure, putting on their favorite song can help boost the mood of people with neurological diseases, but it can boost cognitive skills and reduce the need for antipsychotic drugs as well. According to the AARP, two-thirds of Wisconsin’s nursing homes use personalized playlists as part of daily caregiving routines. Long term care communities have seen the spark that comes back into patients’ eyes, when they put their headphones on. It is amazing to see something so simple make such a big impact.
Organizations for Brain Health and Music Theory
Organizations like Music & Memory specialize in improving the quality of life for elderly patients through the power of music. Their mission is to use personalized playlists to enable those struggling with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive and physical challenges to reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories. With the help of caregivers all across the country, this program has had tremendous feedback. But you don’t have to wait until you see signs or symptoms of cognitive challenges to begin carving out time in your day to get lost in music. The more you listen, the more you will have to connect back to. So next time your kids give you that look of embarrassment when you start to sing and dance, tell them a little boogie is exactly what the doctor ordered.