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Music: Research Proves It’s Good For The Brain

You listen to music and you feel chills go down your spine. Has that ever happened to you?

If so, you’re not alone. According to a study by Nusbaum and Silva, over 90% of people have had this experience. Music can have a powerful effect on people.

Here’s some interesting facts about how music has a positive cognitive impact on the brain:

  • People who are high in one of the five personality dimensions called ‘openness to experience’ are likely to feel the most chills while listening to music (Nusbaum and Silvia, “Shivers and Timbres Personality and the Experience of Chills From Music,” Social Psychology & Personality Science).
  • A Stanford study shows that music engages areas of the brain which are involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in our memory (Baker, Mitzi. “Music moves brain to pay attention, Stanford study finds.” Stanford Medicine).
  • Much like expert technical skills, mastery in arts and humanities is closely correlated to a greater understanding of language components (Trei, Lisa. “Musical training helps language processing, studies show.” Stanford News).
  • Musicians are found to have superior working memory compared to non-musicians (Berti, et al., 2006; Pallesen et al., “Cognitive Control in Auditory Working Memory Is Enhanced in Musicians,” PLOS One).

best music lessons houston

  • Musical experience strengthens many of the same aspects of brain function that are impaired in individuals with language and learning difficulties, such as the neural timing precision which allows differentiation between speech syllables (Kraus, N. and B. Chandrasekaran, Music training for the development of auditory skills. Nature Reviews Neuroscience)
  • Both music and language are complex communication systems, in which basic components are combined into high-order structures in accordance with rules.  Whether music was an evolutionary precursor to language or merely a byproduct of cognitive faculties that developed to support language, music is pervasive across human cultures and throughout history (Nina Kraus, Jessica Slater, “Music and language: relations and disconnections,” The Human Auditory System: Fundamental Organization and Clinical Disorders, Vol. 29, 3rd Series).
  • Cross-sectional comparisons of musicians to non-musicians have established a variety of musician enhancements in auditory skills and their neural substrates, extending from enhanced perception and neural encoding of speech, most notably in suboptimal listening conditions, to more proficient auditory working memory and auditory attention (Nina Kraus, Dana L. Strait, “Emergence of biological markers of musicianship with school-based music instruction,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences).
  • Adults who receive formal music instruction as children have more robust brainstem responses to sound than peers who never participate in music lessons and that the magnitude of the response correlates with how recently training ceased. These results suggest that neural changes accompanying musical training during childhood are retained in adulthood (Skoe, E. & Kraus, N. 2012. A Little Goes a Long Way: How the Adult Brain Is Shaped by Musical Training in Childhood, Journal of Neuroscience).
  • Music therapy utilizing improvisation on hand drums helped veterans modulate their “often misdirected, exaggerated, and unrecognized emotions,” with the goal being generalization of these skills to everyday life. Drumming provided an opportunity for the men to express and control their feelings and helped build a sense of connectedness and group mission  (Distant Thunder: Drumming with Vietnam Veterans. Music Therapy Perspectives, 13, 110-112; quoted in, “Music Therapy and the Military,” by Ronna Kaplan, Huffington Post).
  • Researchers found that those who played an instrument for two years showed a stronger “neurophysiological distinction” between certain sounds than children who didn’t get the instrumental training. For instance, the music-makers more easily could tell the difference between the words “bill” and “pill,” a key skill in learning to read (Skoe, E. & Kraus, N. (2012). A Little Goes a Long Way: How the Adult Brain Is Shaped by Musical Training in Childhood, Journal of Neuroscience).
  • Researchers from Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center looked at how different types of music and silence were processed in the brains of 21 people with epilepsy. Whether listening to classical music or jazz, all of the participants had much higher levels of brain wave activity when listening to music, the study found. Brain wave activity in the epilepsy patients tended to synchronize more with the music, especially in the temporal lobe, the researchers said (Robert Preidt, HealthDay).

Ready to expand your cognitive abilities with music? Sessions Music has 3 locations in Houston, with music programs for every instrument, age level and ability, Get started today!

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