Music & the BrainCredit:

Have you ever wondered why you can remember thousands of lines of lyrics but not where you left your keys? Your brain’s ability to remember tons of “useless information” in the form of music actually is a result of how music specifically interacts with your brain waves. This can get a bit technical but the most basic way to explain the concept is that your brain has different states, which are optimized for different types of human activity. An Alpha Brain State is best for learning and absorbing new material and with the right techniques, humans can actually force their brains into this state. Most of the techniques used to attain an Alpha state require deep breathing, relaxation, meditation, but the easiest way is listening to your iPod. When you listen to music with headphones each headphone is pulsing at a different frequency depending on the song. If you can find music which will pulse into your ears at frequencies that are 10 hertz apart (ex: 100 hertz and 110 hertz), then your brain will align itself to the same frequency thus creating an Alpha brain state. Several companies have begun research and development on this technique and have since created special mp3 tracks that specifically put your brain into different states. This concept explains why music can help people focus, aid in memorization, create a sense of energy, incite an emotional state, and ease pain and stress.

Studying to MusicCredit:

1. Music, the New Adderall 

    Instead of pounding back shots of caffeine in the school library and hiding yourself away in a sound proof corner why not try having some distraction as well? Most people believe that complete quiet is the most optimized way to study and retain information but actually listening to music, whether it is to get yourself into an Alpha brain state or not, is beneficial for focus. This is because music engages the part of the brain which increases and sustains the human attention span. The way this works, is that while you are tapping you pen or staring at your 500 pages of reading the music in your headphones is being counted unconsciously by your brain. Each song has its own unique rhythm and note change patterns that are counted actively by your temporal lobe, the part of your brain that receives auditory cues. This also causes the active studier or worker to feel as though time is moving faster as they complete tasks because the constant activity in your brain keeps you from consciously detecting movement of time as you would normally.

    2. Memory and Melody

    The patterns of rhythm and note changes previously mentioned are also the reason that music aids in memorization. Your brain will recognize those similar patterns and retain them more easily than it will for rote information. This explains why lyrics are easier to remember than anything else because your mind will automatically attach specific patterns to specific words in a song. Thus if you were to write out something in the form of music, it would be much easier to retain than with any other method of memorization. Musicians are also noted to have higher cognitive functioning and better memory retention than non-musicians because they are constantly activating their brain for detection of these song patterns whenever they try to play a song from memory.

    Running to MusicCredit:

    3. Running with the Beat

    Most people run with music because they say it helps them keep a pace and run longer without becoming bored. This is because music helps you consciously focus on what is being played instead of the burning of your muscles. Musical therapy actually works the same way because it distracts your brain and keeps your attention away from the pain. This is the same concept as that of music affecting time perception and in the case of an athlete or runner, music also affects distance perception so that after running five miles, you may remember what you listened to, but not the distance or time passing as you ran.

    4. Moshpits and Movies

    In creating that sense of energy, music also is then able to incite an emotional state within the listener. This state will be affected by not only the lyrical content of the song, but more so by the rhythm and notes of the song. This is why concerts often appear to be so out of control and alive, with a crowd of people, their emotions and energy become a force in itself. For those who haven’t been to Woodstock, an easier way to understand this sort of emotional energy is in movies. Notice how in scary movies, the music will indicate when something is about to happen and will heighten the fear and anticipation in the audience. Similarly you will more easily identify with the characters if the musical score of the scene is in line with their specific emotions.

    5. Musical Medicine

    Music therapy has been used for years to soothe the pain and stress of sick patients. Its relaxation effects are especially useful for curing ailments such as insomnia, hypertension, mood disorders, and anxiety but it also is used for distraction from pain as was explained above. Playing and writing music is also useful for any patients as an emotional outlet and social connection which helps in cases of depression, which are common in hospital settings. 


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