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What power does music possess over the brain?

By: April Carson

Have you ever wondered how listening to music influences your brain? It takes a significant role in our lives and can be heard everywhere, from studying for exams to unwinding at the gym. Music has been shown to have both positive and negative effects on productivity, concentration, and overall mental health.

Researchers have found that music can positively affect the brain by increasing focus and concentration, improving mood, relieving stress, and even enhancing creativity. Music has also been observed to trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, which is associated with feelings of pleasure.

Not only does listening to music trigger a surge of dopamine, but research also reveals that it may improve our cognitive abilities, reduce anxiety and stress levels, and help us stay focused. It makes perfect sense why we so often indulge in music before, during, or after exercise - if you want to maximize your auditory experience while running then check out our list of the best headphones for running.

Music has been found to have an influence on a person’s mood and mental state, which means it can be used therapeutically. Listening to music has been known to reduce stress, as well as depression and anxiety.

Have you ever wondered why hearing a song can stir up emotions and make us want to move? As Desiree Silverstone, a psychotherapist based in London England explains, when we hear our favorite tunes, the auditory cortex of our brain is activated. This also has an effect on two other key areas of the brain: The limbic system which controls emotion, as well as the motor cortex responsible for movement.

These three systems interact and create a "feel-good" loop where the music drives emotion, which in turn fuels our movement. In this way, the power of music can be harnessed to increase physical activity and exercise levels.

Silverstone highlighted that the more brain areas are stimulated, the greater our physical and emotional reactions to music. Fast-paced beats can make us feel alert and energized while gentle tunes will lead to relaxation and serenity. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to both types of music to reach your desired state of mind. For example, if you're feeling anxious and stressed, listening to classical pieces or meditative music can help reduce your stress levels. On the other hand, upbeat tunes are great for boosting mood.

Have you ever been able to recall the words of a song, but can't seem to remember what happened last weekend? Music reaches far beyond providing mere entertainment. A 2008 study published in Perception and Motor Skills found that rhythm with or without music might have an ability to "enhance remembrance of textual content," which means listening to music could be useful for memorizing facts.

It is also believed that music can stimulate the part of the brain involved in emotion, thus helping us to relax and even providing relief from physical pain. Music has a powerful effect on the brain by releasing chemicals like dopamine which can boost our moods, reduce anxiety, and leave us feeling euphoric.

The 2017 Frontiers in Psychology review uncovered that music can be a powerful tool for reducing depression symptoms. Of the 28 studies examined, 26 showed noteworthy improvements in depressive signs among those who listened to music compared to those without exposure. Undeniably, these results demonstrate how listening to melodies can help lower individuals' levels of distress and despair over time. Persons of all ages, without any existing medical condition, have reported feeling notably better after engaging in music therapy. Listening to and interacting with songs, either by composing or playing them yourself can be incredibly beneficial for mental health.

Research from psychotherapist Jordan Vyas-Lee, co-founder of the renowned Kove Clinic in London, England reveals that listening to cheerful music can ignite neural pathways retaining uplifting and personal recollections. When depression sets in, these memories often become blocked off. Consequently, unlocking them is key to stimulating creativity as well as positive behavior patterns according to Vyas-Lee.

Vyas-Lee is adamant that music, while not a "miraculous cure" for depression, can act as an incredible helping hand in the process of recovering.

According to a 2022 review published in Musicae Scientiae, listening to music has been proven to be successful at reducing the symptoms of diagnosed anxiety. The study found that 30 minutes was determined as the average session time, however, further research is needed for understanding how long one must listen for experiencing relief from anxious feelings.

While music can often improve our mental state, it can have the opposite effect if we are already feeling down. Studies show that a moody person's outlook may worsen when listening to certain tunes. An experiment published in the Psychology of Music in 2019 brought to light an astonishing result: out of all participants, 17 percent felt heavier-hearted after hearing somber tunes when feeling down. But for 74 percent, sad music had no extra effect on their emotions.

Thus, it is important to be mindful of how music affects our state of mind. One should also be aware that while tunes can have a temporary soothing effect on anxiety and depression, they are not a replacement for the professional help from mental health experts.

According to Vyas-Lee, if you're exposed to angry or sorrowful music for too long, your cortisol levels will increase and activate areas of the brain linked with poor feelings. It can even trigger an alarm in your head.

Therefore, when you're feeling particularly low, it's important to be mindful of the music you're listening to. Make sure you pick tunes that make you feel good and help bring your spirits up, such as upbeat pop songs.

Uncovering the connection between someone's music habits and their emotional wellness potentially lies in how frequently they listen to a certain style of music, as well as how actively they interact with it. Listening to music that reflects your current emotional state can be beneficial, as it allows you to identify and process those feelings. However, if the music doesn’t help you move on from a certain emotion or situation, then engaging with it could diminish your well-being in the long run.

Ultimately, what power music has over our brains is largely dependent on the individual. Each of us has our unique tastes and preferences, and those are what will determine how music affects us on an emotional level. Whether it’s providing a source of comfort or inspiring a feeling of joy, music can be a powerful tool to help us better understand ourselves and our emotions.

Meditation Monday: Binaural Beat Meditation by Billy Carson


April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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