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Sunday Article 13: Brain’s Natural Power-up: Music!

Brain’s Natural Power-up: Music!

Did you know that in The Burnett Honors College Florida, USA, there is a course being taught by Prof. Sugaya and Prof. Yonetani titled, ‘Music and the Brain’?

Almost every human in the world listens to some kind of music. We listen to it as it gives us pleasure and makes us feel the way we want to feel. But did you know that music actually affects the brain and its functions? This article explores the effect of music and other related topics.


Frontal lobe: This is the most important part of being a human. Listening to music enhances its function.

· Broca’s area: Playing an instrument stimulates this part to communicate better; we use this part to express music.

Temporal lobe: Processes what we hear. Through this language centre, we are able to appreciate music, where the left hemisphere interprets words and the right interprets sounds.

· Wernicke’ area: This part tends to analyse and enjoy the music.

Occipital lobe: Professional musicians use the occipital (visual) cortex when they listen to music; contrary to non-musicians who use the temporal lobe (auditory and language centre). Professional musicians might visualise music score whilst doing so.

Cerebellum: Muscle memories are stored here and they are never gone from the cerebellum. Example: An Alzheimer’s patient who cannot recognise their child, can still play the keyboard if they have learned it when they were young.


Central (brain) limbic system:

· Nucleus Accumbens: The central part of the brain. Music can be addictive just like drugs as this increases the dopamine level in Nucleus Accumbens; the same area where hard drugs act upon.

· Amygdala: Music can control your emotions (fight, fear, pleasure etc). This part is also responsible for triggering shivers that run down your spine.

· Hippocampus: Increases neurogenesis by producing new neurons and improving memory.

· Hypothalamus: Links endocrine and nervous systems. Certain music can reduce heart rate and blood pressure.

· Corpus callosum: Communicates both hemispheres for smooth interpretation of senses. Allows instrument players to translate notes and hit the right keys/ notes at the same time.

· Putamen: Music increases dopamine and then our response to rhythm. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease have been found to be stopped due to this. Rhythm helps these patients to move and walk; sort of acting like a walking cane.


Regardless of the genre, your gray matter prefers the same type of music as you do! There is a phenomenon called the Mozart effect where a person who had listened to Mozart’s sonata for 10minutes for example, exhibited improved reasoning skills which can even temporarily boost a portion of their IQ test. Though, other studies have proven that this is not always true. One of them has proven that dementia patients respond better to the music they listened to as a child. If the brain is studied when a person is listening to their favourite music, we can observe different parts of their brain is lit up as emotional memories associated with it are triggered. This then further proves that some memories never fade out from a human’s brain- even in Alzheimer’s patients.


- Change our ability to perceive time

- Can instigate primal fear

- Improve our communication skills

- Boost our immune system

- Reduce seizures

- Aid in repairing brain damage

- Makes us stronger

- Tap into memories

- Help Parkinson’s patients

- Make us more intelligent


1. Classical music

As mentioned earlier, ’The Mozart Effect’ suggests that listening to classical music can enhance brain activity and improve health and well-being. This type of music does not contain words which means there is no distraction when one is trying to focus. Classical music is well-known to be calming, relaxing and reducing stress as well.

2. Nature Music

Sounds such as rainfall or tropical noises (bird calls or animal sounds) are classified as nature’s music. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute conducted a study that proved natural sounds boost focus and mood. Calming nature sounds are also known to have a restorative effect on cognitive abilities.

3. Cinematic music

An epic soundtrack of a movie is believed to be a good influence on our concentration and productivity. Cinematic music scores can be inspiring and empowering, cheering one up and elevating their mood. The right film score can also give you that much-needed boost of motivation to get on and about your day!

4. Music between 50 and 80 beats per minute

Researches do suggest that the tempo of music plays a major or even the only role in helping to stay focused and productive. Dr Emma Gray, a cognitive behavioural therapist (CBT) collaborated with Spotify to research the benefits of different types of music and discovered that music with 50 to 80 bpm, leads the brain into the alpha state.

When we are awake, our brain has increased alertness and typically, we are said to be in a beta state of mind.

Alpha state with a frequency of 7-14Hz, as opposed to beta state with a frequency of 14 to 30 Hz, is where our brain is in a more relaxed state of mind and is more open and receptive. This state of mind is activated during activities such as imagination, memory and intuition as well as ‘eureka moments.


The BAMT, British Association for Music Therapy, defines Music Therapy as "an established psychological clinical intervention, delivered by HCPC registered music therapists to help people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability through supporting their psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative and social needs.”

Music therapists are currently working with:

- Children and young people

- Adults with learning disabilities

- Autistic spectrum conditions

- Children, adolescents and adults in mental health settings

- Older people

- Neuro-disability

Since the ability to speak is not mandatory to participate or respond to music, Music Therapy can be especially effective for people who have difficulty in communicating due to injury, illness or disability. This is then used to ease positive changes in emotional wellbeing and communication through the engagement of live musical interplay between client and therapist.

Children with autism are able to improve their social, communication and emotional skills. A person with brain injury due to an accident can regain their speech abilities with the aid of this therapy. An older person with dementia who is overwhelmed and anxious due to the newfound feeling of isolation and bewilderment will be able to connect with memories again and share them through an evocative type of music.


Music is also known to improve the quality of sleep for humans. It acts by calming parts of the autonomic nervous system, resulting in a slower breathing rate, lower heart rate and reduced blood pressure.

Music affects sleep by conveying electrical signals from the sound waves received at the ear canals to the brain. This signal triggers a cascade of physical effects in the body, improving the ability to sleep or curbing problems that are associated with it.

Music is also known to reduce the production of a stress hormone called cortisol. A low amount of cortisol in the body will decrease our alertness and allow the body to get into the ‘rest’ state.

Music with 60 to 100 bpm is generally suggested to be used when trying to sleep as this corresponds to a human’s resting heart rate. Though do keep in mind, songs that can cause a strong emotional response should be avoided as this will evoke other emotions and feelings than that of when one is resting; resulting in the body being in the ‘awake’ state with high alertness.


1. Do not waste it!

-We are born with more neurons than we need and by the age of 8, our brain does a neuron dump where unnecessary neurons are removed from the brain. Hence why it is easier to teach young kids completely new music and languages.

2. Cells in the ear

-We have 100 million photoreceptors in our eyes but only 3500 inner hair cells yet our brain is exceptionally good at perceiving them.

3. Seasonal songbirds

-Every autumn, canaries stop singing as their brain cells responsible for it degenerates. However, the neurons then grow back during the winter and canaries learn their songs all over again in spring. This is a naturally occurring proof that music can enhance neurogenesis in brains.

To summarise, listening to music can be beneficial and adapting it to our lifestyle will result in a positive influence, and also, we get to enjoy the groovy beats at the same time!



Music and the Brain: What Happens When You're Listening to Music. Retrieved from,brain's%20ability%20to%20produce%20neurons.

Patel, D. These 6 Types of Music Are Known to Dramatically Improve Productivity. Retrieved from

Newsom, R. Music and Sleep: Can Music Help You Sleep Better? | Sleep Foundation. Retrieved


British Association for Music Therapy :: What is Music Therapy?. (2021). Retrieved 20 March 2021, from,physical%2C%20communicative%20and%20social%20needs.


This article is prepared by Keshwiny Nathan.


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