Years ago, a conductor was rehearsing with an orchestra. They were practicing a piece that he knew for a fact he had never played or conducted before. Still, it felt incredibly familiar. When he later spoke to his mother about it, he learned that she, a cellist, had been playing the same piece when she was expecting him. He had, in fact, learned the piece while in his mother’s womb! This little story illustrates a fascinating truth – how music affects the brain.
And that’s not only true for adults, but for children as well. Babies in the 6th month of pregnancy can learn to recognize simple melodies such as Twinkle, twinkle, little star. Studies show that babies who are exposed to 70 hours of classical music during the last pregnancy weeks develop better motor skills, are smarter, and show better linguistic development.
So, let’s take a look at how music affects the brain throughout our lives!
Small children can certainly benefit from music. They become more creative, have a better memory, and learn to talk faster. For example, it’s easier for children exposed to music to learn to distinguish between the letters B and P.
But the benefits of music for infants are not limited to just hearing and thinking. Music also increases their spatial intelligence, hence they become better at understanding the visual world. In fact, one study showed that small children at a kindergarten who had piano lessons were better at completing a jigsaw puzzle than kids who had computer lessons.
A five-year-long study from Los Angeles clearly shows how music benefits the brain of children.
The study was carried out with three test groups. None of the children had music training when they started and they all performed similarly in tests. Then, they were divided into three groups. One group learned to play instruments and played in an orchestra. Another group did sports. Meanwhile, the third group didn’t have any after-school activities.
The musical group of kids did, of course, develop musical abilities and was better at tasks that required active listening. But their parents also reported that they were much calmer compared to the other test groups, with less hyperactivity and aggression. It also made them better at making decisions.
The scientists who conducted the study concluded that the musical group matured in various ways.
For teenagers, music often plays a big part in their daily lives. Especially when it comes to controlling your feelings, it can be a powerful tool. When listening to happy music, we often can’t help but smile. And when we hear a sad song, it can trigger our empathy. Caring about others makes us feel good, so sad songs can actually help lift our mood.
But it’s crucial for the sad song to be about something general. If you know that the song is about something real that has happened and makes you sad, it will not have the same effect.
Music is great for adults as well. It can help us sleep better, makes us happier, eases depression, makes our memory better and even helps us concentrate and relieve depression and anxiety. It also has positive physical effects when it comes to blood pressure and pain management.
People with Dementia
The brain of somebody who suffers from dementia is damaged in certain places. But music stimulates many parts of the brain. This means that most dementia patients can still sing, recognize songs and even learn new ones.
Music gives everyone lots of feel-good hormones and makes life happier and more fun for the elderly. It makes them less anxious and irritable, and oftentimes helps them communicate better.
Now that you know how music affects the brain, the conclusion is clear. Play music daily and make your brain happy and smart!