Why Is Music Important To Us: Here’s How Your Brain Reacts To Music

Why Is Music Important To Us

What is your favorite part of your favorite song, and why does it hold so much significance that it makes us sing or dance along with it? So, if you’ve ever wondered why is music important to us, just keep reading! 

Why Is Music Important To Us: Here’s What It Does To The Brain Which Inturn Creates Memories

Depending on the type and tempo, music or a song can reduce stress and agitation, calm and motivate, lower blood pressure and heart rate, prompt word retrieval, and even control pain. 

When it comes to the theme song to our favorite TV show, some of us know the lyrics and the melody of the theme song as if we wrote it – it’s in our memory forever! Why does music hold this power over us and even have the ability to go deep within our soul and move us? Both emotionally and physically music can move us – when “our jam” comes on and you just have to pick up the pace and move with the music on the dance floor. It’s almost second nature and it feels so good to match your movements to the beat, by why?

While our brains have been filled with musical inclinations, it’s clearly filled with contemplative questions as well. So, with that being said, let’s explore the reason behind why we remember our favorite song and never forget it, why we tap our feet to the beat, or why we turn to music when we get emotional.

The brain and tonality – this helps create memories

Compared to any other function that people perform Music has involved more parts of the brain because of the relationships between the elements of harmony and melody: in chords, tones, intervals, and scales or Tonality, for example, affect three parts of the brain: first the Prefrontal Cortex, next the Cerebellum and lastly the Temporal Lobe. 

This means that extremely processed information from different forms of sensory modalities is brought here in a precise fashion to construct perception, memory, and diverse cognitive processes that help make events predictable. 

When events are predictable with a predictable time, it produces expectation in the brain when we listen to music and this anticipation allows tapping to the beat (for example). If there is no anticipation of the beat coming up, then as music listeners, we would forever be a millisecond behind, waiting to react to the sound.

All this is to say that we remember the tone of the song, even if we heard it just once (creating memories and sensory rhythms that we tapped into) with the help of these parts of the brain. 

In other words, we keep up with the next part of the song, a millisecond before, in anticipation of that part of the song because of these parts we’ve heard just before! 

The brain and rhythm – this motivates us to move

In the case of Rhythm, the left parietal cortex, the left frontal cortex, and the right cerebellum are all activated. Not only that, the motor areas are activated and we tap our feet. 

Motor control can be explained as the function by which humans and animals utilize their brain or cognitive processing to activate and coordinate their limbs and muscles when used in the performance of a motor skill.

So that’s why we feel like dancing or tapping our feet to the beat. Essentially, your brain is actively participating and rhythm perception is carried out by these 3 parts ( the left parietal cortex, the left frontal cortex, and the right cerebellum)! 

In terms of why this would be important in the world, it could be surmised through demanding or tough activity such as war or battle cries when the chants are motivating tired and exhausted soldiers to literally soldier on. Perhaps this is the same reason why we turn to party music when we are exhausted and have some cleaning or other types of work we need to complete – like a gym session. 

The brain and lyrics – this helps our emotions 

Lastly, let’s look at Lyrics and see how much value they add to the importance of music to human beings. 

When we read lyrics to any song, areas within the brain like the Visual Cortex (which is part of the cerebral cortex and is responsible for processing visual information), Broca’s area of the brain (which is helpful in determining the meaning of sentences or language comprehension) and Wernicke’s area of the brain (which is responsible for helping us to understand language) are all used. 

We get emotionally moved as we contemplate on the words because that’s what music makes us feel with the existence of lyrics. This is why some of the greatest lyrics (be it in rap, metal, country, R and B, or any genre) will help with our emotional needs. 

The superpowers that music can bring out:

While we see that music and the brain affect our emotions, our movements, our memories the same can be brought back as we age. 

As we grow up, we get closer to our parents. Some of us notice that we’re taller than them, think faster than them, or even outrun or out-dance our parents. Another inevitable thing we realize is that they start to age. And eventually so will we. We may notice that most of their memories fade away as our parents reach their senior years and that can become tough on us emotionally and mentally. 

The answer lies in music which can trigger pleasure points in the brain allowing us to recall good feelings and more importantly, memories. So we can play some music, share a tune, and enjoy long-lasting bonds that won’t break through music.

The Benefits Even At Old Age 

As we mentioned above, the music we listen to can actually lower blood pressure and heart rate, prompt word retrieval, and even control pain. As this is helpful for any generation, we have noted the benefits of music especially when it can reduce stress and agitation, calm and motivate, 

An elderly woman, in the throes of late-stage dementia, is slumped over a wheelchair, unresponsive. When the nursing home staff gives her headphones and plays familiar music from decades before, the old lady literally comes alive – she sits up, smiles, begins moving her head and hands, and flawlessly begins to recall the lyrics to songs he hasn’t heard in 40 years.

To put it simply, music activates the pleasure centers of the brain and researchers are finding that there can be changes in neurochemicals when people hear music they like. The  neurochemicals occur when we create music, sing, chant, or move to the rhythm. Not only that, listening to music can help in recalling memories, which is really important for people starting to lose their memory. According to Concetta Tomaino, executive director and cofounder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, a music therapist and researcher, “even at the end of Alzheimer’s, people still have recognition memory. If an individual has a connection to a piece of music it’s usually because it reminds them of a place, an era, person, or time of significance.” They might not remember the experience, or even your name, but they associate it with something special.

Now that we know that music activates the pleasure centers of the brain, not to forget memory, we can advise caregivers to play, make or sing music from the patient’s late teens or the music they listened to in their 20s, or even when they were young children. An elderly client might have their favorite show tunes, beloved singers, opera, pop or classical inclinations that can bring back sweet times. 

Music triggers the brain for non-dementia conditions, too, such as Parkinson’s, Stroke, Huntington’s, etc. Parkinson’s patients who have trouble walking can even glide effortlessly across a room.

Bonding Through Music

To understand this case in point, let’s turn to a musicologist as well as a geriatrician at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Theresa Alison says her research shows “music works best when it is not just familiar but also beloved.”

Dr. Alison encourages the family caregivers of older clients to sing with them on a regular basis. “Morning routines of care are much better when singing than bossing them around,” she says. She advises quieter, more calming music when they’re walking up, and then picking up the pace for activities such as moving to the kitchen, for example. Dancing is something you can do together with your Mom’s favorite tunes—and it’s fun in addition to being a bonding experience!

“What is so powerful is we can use music to maintain relationships when we lose our words,” says Dr. Alison, who sings to, and with, her patients, some of whom have dementia. “Caregivers have cried when they’ve told me they’ve sung with their parents. They say, ‘I got my mom back that day.’ These are some of the most important moments in their relationships.”

She knows what those moments feel like as it was music which brought her closer to both her mother and grandmother, who both had dementia. At the end of her mother’s life, Dr. Alison sang to her and played music. And, when her grandmother could no longer converse, they sang together a song she had taught Dr. Alison as a child. “It was amazing,” says the geriatrician.

Final conclusion on why is music important to us:

The psychology of music makes it abundantly clear to scientists and other studies that music association holds profoundly important the success of individuals. 

While we music lovers do listen, dance, sing, we can even glide to the top of the mountains with music, we can now really understand what happens to us behind the scenes. The BTS brain action involved in helping us love music notes that we humans tend to like music more than just singing along to a catchy beat or having fun at karaoke.  

Behind the scenes, dozens of receptors in our brain respond to different musical aspects like tone, rhythm, lyrics, and determine the qualities we personally favor and what we do not prefer. Maybe the reason why music is important to us is that we can never let music just go in one ear and out the other because we are constantly allowing our brain to respond to music and enjoying the benefits of listening to it. 

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