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Music for the Brain: Fascinating Ways Mu
Affects Your Mood and Mind

Music has been around us for millennia. For long, it has been understood that music impacts our mind, feelings and mood, but the reasons for such impacts have not been studied until very recently.

Today’s psychological research and brain scans are discovering the mechanism that brings those mood changes or mood regulation often associated with music.

This might also include why listening to different genres of music improves our focus, helps us manage mood during challenging moments or improve our mood during times of sadness. Many psychological studies involving music have been conducted on individuals in the westernized environment, but some cross-cultural studies have shown that unfamiliar music from other cultures can still be understood in similar ways. As it seems, certain music genres are common to all experiences, indicating that they developed in similar ways to inspire or regulate similar emotional experiences.

Music for the Brain

Happy or sad music affects how we see neutral faces 

We can typically choose if a certain piece of music is happy or sad, but this isn’t just a subjective idea that arises from how it makes us feel. That said, our brains are actually responding differently to happy and sad music.

Even short pieces of sad or happy music can have an effect on us. One study has shown that after hearing a short piece of music, contestants had more chances to interpret a neutral expression as sad or happy to match the tone of the music they’ve been listening to. Not only that, but this has also occurred with other facial expressions, but was most prominent for those that were near to neutral.

Another interesting thing about us and how music affects our emotional status, are the two kinds of emotions related to music – the felt emotions and the perceived emotions. What does that mean?

We are able to understand the emotions of a music structure without actually feeling them, which explains why some people find sad music pleasing, rather than gloomy.

Ambient noise works on creativity 

We all have a list of the most pump-up tunes to help us delve effortlessly throughout to-do lists, isn’t it? But when it comes to creative efforts, fast or loud music may not be the smartest option, unless you’re the kind of person who can concentrate regardless of the tempo. However, it turns out that a moderate noise level can be a truly sweet spot for creativity. Even low noise levels, such as the ambient noise, apparently boost our creative juices flowing, and doesn’t discourage people the way high levels of noise do.

Ambient, or even spiritual music, increase processing difficulty, which encourages mental processing, leading to higher creativity. Simply put, when we struggle to process things as we usually would, we resume to more creative ways.

But in high noise levels, however, the creative thinking is diminished as we’re overwhelmed and struggle to process information effectively.

The effects of music on our creative thinking are somehow similar to how lighting and temperature affect our productivity, where apparently a slightly more crowded place can be helpful.

Our music choice often predicts our personality 

If you’re planning to take this too seriously, please don’t. This theory has only been tested on young adults, but it still remains a thought-provoking one.

A study with on couples who spend time to know each other better, viewing their top ten favourite tracks, actually provided justly reliable prediction because of the listener’s personality traits. The study relied on five personality traits for the test, such as extraversion, conscientiousness, openness to experience, agreeableness, and emotional stability.

Some of these traits were more accurately predicted based on the individual’s listening habits than others. For example, openness to experience, emotional stability and extraversion, have been guessed immediately. But on the other hand, consciousness has not been noticeable based on the musical taste.

Music improves our attention 

Ever heard a track that engages you so deeply it swallows all of your attention? By engaging our attention and our brain in the right way, music is able to sustain, improve and activate our attention.

If we would take a look at the brain images of people listening to short but engaging symphonies by an obscure composer, we will notice the enormous power between music and the mind to captivate our attention.

A study from the Sandford University School of Medicine investigated the relationship between these two where they’ve noticed an increase in brain activity due to a short period of silence between musical movements – when apparently nothing happened. This convinced researchers to theorize that listening to music can promote brain attention span.

Another theory would be that such silences are in fact, a part of each composer's intention to guide the listener in integrating and interpreting the music in the brain. And, that space between the notes is what captivates our full attention and allows the busy mind to integrate and communicate with the heart. During these silences, we’re somehow able to focus wholly and entirely, where the real healing and balance occurs, as our heart and brain work coherently.

Learning and Neuroplasticity 

Neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to emulate and organize itself by creating new neural links throughout life and can be significantly affected by the musical structures and the brain.

One exciting thing about our brain is that when it is damaged, it can either find or create new ways to function properly. Remarkably, music can provide the exact same effects on the brain as it creates new pathways and aids the brain to rewire itself in the event of a brain injury.

For example, in a revolutionary study by the University of Newcastle in Australia, popular music was used to support patients with brain injuries in evoking their personal memories. At the end of the study, music affected their brain’s ability to reconnect to memories they formerly could not access.

In other words, music helps get a direction to a location. When the road is closed, or you’re stuck in the traffic there is now, and then an alternate route that gets you to the same route and music can help us map that alternative routine in our brain.

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