Can music really influence well-being , learning, cognitive functions, quality of life and even happiness? A recent investigation into music and brain health revealed some interesting results regarding the impact of music on cognitive and emotional well-being :
Music influences well-being
Music listeners had higher scores on mental well-being and slightly lower levels of anxiety and depression than the general population.
Among those surveyed who regularly attend musical performances, 69% rated their brain health as "excellent" or "very good," compared to 58% of those who had attended in the past and 52% of those who had not. have never been there. Among people who said they were often exposed to music as children , 68% rated their ability to learn new things "excellent" or "very good," compared to 50% of those who were not exposed to music. the music.
Active music playing, including among people over the age of 50, is associated with higher rates of happiness and good cognitive function. Adults who were not exposed to music as children but currently enjoy music have higher than average mental well-being scores.
Results to be qualified
The results are impressive. However, this 20-minute online survey has some limitations. On the one hand, it covered 3,185 American adults aged 18 and over, which is not a lot if we extrapolate to 328 million people nationwide. On the other hand, it is actually an opinion poll . For example, although people reported that their brain health was “excellent,” there was no objective measure of brain health, such as an MRI, or even a test to measure their cognition.
Finally, even if the ratings were true, the results are just correlations. They do not prove, for example, that it was exposure to music during childhood that improved the ability to learn new things. It is just as likely that children raised in wealthier homes were more likely to be exposed to music and receive a good education, making it easier for them to learn new things later in life. .
But let's assume that the survey results are true. How can music have such impressive effects on the brain ? Although we don't know the answers with certainty, advances in cognitive neuroscience in recent years have allowed us to speculate on some possible mechanisms.
Music activates almost the entire brain
Music has been shown to activate some of the largest and most diverse networks in the brain. Sure, music activates the auditory cortex in the temporal lobes near your ears, but that's just the beginning. The parts of the brain involved in emotions are not only activated by emotional music, they are also synchronized .
Music also activates various memory regions. Finally, it is interesting to note that music activates the motor system. In fact, according to some theories, it is the activation of the brain's motor system that allows us to perceive the rhythm of music before we even start tapping our feet!
Use it or lose it
Okay, music activates almost the entire brain. Why is this so important? Have you ever heard the expression “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”? It turns out this is also the case for the brain . Brain pathways – and even entire networks – are strengthened when they are used and weakened when they are not. The reason is that the brain is efficient; he's not going to bother keeping a brain pathway strong when it hasn't been used for many years.
The brain will use the neurons in this pathway for other purposes. This type of change should be intuitively obvious to you - that's why it's harder to speak a foreign language if you haven't used it in 20 years; many ancient pathways have become degraded and neurons are used for other purposes.
Music strengthens brain networks
How can music promote well-being, improve learning, stimulate cognitive functions, improve quality of life and even induce happiness?
The answer is: because music can activate almost every region and network in the brain, it can help strengthen myriad brain pathways and networks, including networks involved in well-being, learning , cognitive functions, quality of life and happiness . In fact, there is only one other situation in which you can activate so many brain networks at once, and that's when you're participating in social activities.
How to integrate music into your life? It is easy to do. Although the survey found that people who actively listened to music had the greatest brain benefits, even those who primarily listened to ambient music saw benefits.
Music can improve your mood , so put on a happy tune if you're feeling blue. Upbeat music can energize you.
And if you combine music with aerobic and social activity, you'll get the most health benefits. Take a Zumba class. Do jazz aerobics. Jump to the rhythms of rock & roll. Or, better yet, go dancing!