28 / MAY / 2020

How music affects us

Music has been associated with physical and emotional healing throughout history. The ancient Greeks assigned the god Apollo to reign over both music and healing. Ancient shamanic curative rituals used rhythmically repetitive music to facilitate trance induction. Aristotle and Plato both prescribed music to debilitated individuals. Plato prescribed both music and dancing for the fearful and anxious, while Aristotle spoke of the power of music to restore health and normalcy to those who suffer from uncontrollable emotions and compared it to a medical treatment.

Music & Mind

Before getting to the technical part, in short, music helps with reducing stress, memory, learning, it can reduce seizures and help treat mental illnesses.

Neuromusicology is a term used to describe the study of the relation between the human nervous system and the ways people interact with music.

Normal sounds, such as the tones heard in music proceed into your body through a marked path. They begin as sound waves enter the cochlea (inner ear). The function of the cochlea is to sort complex sounds into their elementary frequencies, and then transmit them to the auditory cortex as trains of neural discharges via separately tuned fibers of the auditory nerve. The auditory cortex is in the temporal lobe. Here specialized cells respond to certain frequencies. Neighboring cells have overlapping tuning curves to prevent gaps in the system. However, the brain’s response to music is more complex.

Instead of interpreting each tone individually, the brain groups the sequences of tones together and identifies the relationships between the sounds.

These patterns are neurologically observable through brainwave patterns. Dissonant chords cause erratic and random neuron firing patterns while consonant chords cause even patterns. Contour consists of the patterns of rising and falling pitches in music and is the cornerstone of all melodies. Changes in contour affect the intensity of the response of neuron firings in the auditory cortex.

Music & Body

Some of the effects music has on the body include keeping the heart healthy by regulating the blood pressure, decreasing fatigue, boost exercise performance and help in managing pain.

Physiologically, music has a distinct effect on many biological processes. It inhibits the occurrence of fatigue, as well as changes the pulse and respiration rates, external blood pressure levels. However, music is not limited to changing the body’s responses in only one direction.

The nature of the music influences the change as well. Pitch, tempo, and melodic pattern all influence music’s effect on mood and physical processes. For instance, high pitch, acceleration of rhythm, and ascending melodic passages are all generally felt to increase anxiety and tension and sometimes even lead to loss of control and panic. Inversely, music with low pitch generally produces a calming effect. Slow tempos and descending melodies often cause feelings of sadness and depression.

Music & Social

Music is a communication tool and it remains a powerful way to unite people. National Anthems connect crowds, protest songs give a sense of shared purpose, hymns build group identity, lullabies develop secure attachments between parent and children & love songs, well love songs give us hope and bring us together.

And while all these require us to sing along, enjoy the chart below on the benefits of singing 🙂