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  • Writer's pictureAryan Muzumdar

Brainy Tunes: How Music Affects The Brain

According to the Oxford dictionary, music is vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony and expression of emotion. Well to me it is the Alpha and the Omega. It brings people of different walks of life to a common platform where there is no barrier of place or language or religion or race. The understanding of how music affects the brain has come a long way; till around 25 years ago scientists thought that language affects the left hemisphere of the brain while music affects the right hemisphere of the brain. Today we know that when one listens to music, it engages various parts of the brain. When we listen to music, it gets shuttled off to various parts like the auditory cortex which tracks the loudness, pitch, rhythm etc. There is visual cortex activation when you read music and see music. The motor cortex gets activated when you are tapping your feet, snapping your fingers or clapping your hands. The cerebellum mediates the emotional responses and the memory system in the hippocampus, helps in hearing a particular passage and finding it somewhere in your memory bank.

Music enhances memory functions in humans. Musicians are believed to give their memories tags like conceptual tags, emotional tags, auditory tags and contextual tags helping them retrieve their memories faster. Because of more activity in both the hemispheres of the brain, when listening to and playing music, musicians have better problem-solving capabilities and solve problems in more effective and creative ways. Don't you think this strategy is worth a try? The corpus callosum is the link and relays the signals between the hemispheres of the brain. It is found to have an increase in volume and activity due to the increased stimulation in both hemispheres of the brain. Music training also helps improve cognitive and social skills. It also brings about positive behavioral changes. Some people have a better correlation between what they hear and how they feel and get frisson or what we call chills or a tingling sensation when they hear an emotional piece of music. Listening to music also triggers the internal opioid system that makes you feel good and relieves pain. Conversely, if you listen to music that you don't like your body releases cortisol; also known as the stress hormone.

Our brain has fireworks going off every time we listen to or play music. It takes apart music, breaks it down into rhythm and melody and puts it back together to give us a musical experience; all in the split second from when we first listen to music and start tapping our feet to the beat.

Where words fail, music speaks. Music is the soundtrack of our lives. Music is life itself.

Thank you for the music!

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