"We are what we are with music and for music”

In the first part of this post I have based myself on a study by psychiatrists from the University of Vermont

In the second part I talk about the effects and feelings that music produces in people.

1. Investigation:

Psychiatrists at the University of Vermont published in “The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry journal” a study confirming the positive effects of practice a musical instrument on brain development.

Under the direction of James Hudziak:

A medical team performed an MRI on 232 young people from 6 to 18 years old, in order to observe the cognitive variations present in the cerebral cortex, where synaptic connections are linked to depression, concentration, anxiety, aggressiveness and loss of impulse control.

Children who benefit from learning an instrument over a 15-month period experience significant changes in the cerebral cortex: The cognitive learning zones used become more active and more numerous. These areas of the brain not only address musical learning processes but are also responsible for memory and language.

During the growth of children, the cortex (outer area of ​​the brain) thickens. In previous magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) analyzes, Hudziak and his team had found that thickening or thinning of the cerebral cortex resulted from the appearance of anxiety or depression, attention problems, aggressiveness or behavior problems even in healthy children, that is, without a diagnosis of mental illness.

With this study, Hudziak sought to determine whether a positive activity, such as the practice of a musical instrument, could influence these factors in the cerebral cortex.

The study results support a model developed by James Hudziak (The Vermont Family Based Approach) that indicates that the entire environment of children has an influence on their mental health (parents, teachers, friends, pets and extracurricular activities).

“We always treat negatively and never try to use positive means of treatment” Hudziak expressing his opinion on treatments for children with psychological problems.

According to the study authors, “these statistics, when taken in the context of brain imaging results, demonstrate the importance of finding innovative ways to make instrumental practice accessible to more young people, starting from childhood.”

2. Music: Emotions, communication and attention.

Music, something so natural for people, is the result of complex neural mechanisms that end up involving almost the entire brain in producing it, listening to it, interpreting it and feeling it.

The fact that the brain areas that control and execute movement respond specifically to music could suggest that it is develope to promote collective movement. Something that gives it evolutionary value for the consolidation of united communities.

"Music is one of the factors that produces more pleasure, conditioned by a brain circuit that manages physiological responses to emotional stimuli, measured by dopamine, a hormone linked to so-called brain rewards.”

Everything begins in the ear when listening to a song, the stimulus is transmitted through the brain stem, reaches the auditory cortex and, from there, is distributed into areas:

  • The rhythm acts on the left frontal and left parietal cortex, and on the cerebellum straight.
  • The tone would impact the prefrontal cortex, the cerebellum, and the temporal lobe.
  • And the letter, in the Broca and Wernicke areas, the caudate and accumbens nucleus, and in the prefrontal area, all linked to emotions.

Also, It contains the musical storage areas, where the brain responses to sounds is conditioned from what it heard earlier.

The effects of music on different areas of the brain simultaneously have also allowed these stimuli to improve impaired functions in the neuronal field, based on physiological and emotional processes.

Improvements have been observed in people with movement problems, speaking difficulties, dementias and sequelae of cerebrovascular diseases, with the proper use of music, in a therapeutic way. Music is a good aid in the rehabilitation processes, since it induces positive moods and favors the genesis of movements.

3. Effects of the music:

Many studies have tried to simplify schematically the effects of music on the brain, and although the relationship of these sounds with neurons is complex

  • It is reassuring. Listening to music show to act directly on the hypothalamus and other centers responsible for stimulating the reward and pleasure areas at the level of the brain, and also increases the production of nitric oxide that opens blood vessels and improves cerebral circulation. In addition to releasing serotonin and reducing cortisol levels. All this results in a significant decrease in anxiety and almost immediate relaxing effects.
  • It is a sadness that comforts. Sad music produces a pleasant and enjoyable feeling in some people because various studies have shown that when listening to it, the brain releases prolactin, a hormone that actually produces feelings of relief and relief.
  • Communication. It has already been said that music is capable of producing similar reactions in groups of people who are in the same conditions, allowing emotional connections between them, for this reason people dance, attend concerts or perform synchronized exercises. In addition to that it is a convergent fusion element for defense and attack. Therefore, there is talk of drums of war or martial music, used by armies. Based on this it is say that music is a universal language.
  • Movement planning. The brain show to naturally cause music to activate centers of movement to produce rhythmic actions translated into dance or harmonic shifts of some parts of the body, even when apparently still (head, hands, or tapping) .
  • Musical worm. For times, there are songs that seem not to go out of our heads and appear repeatedly, what some call musical worms, which is nothing more than the need of the auditory cerebral cortex to complete what it considers pieces of incomplete melody, so that always brings to mind said melody, seeking to find the pieces that do not have.

In other words, they are pieces of music, sometimes very elementary, that the brain interprets as if something is missing. Advertiser use this, they make promotional music that generates remembrance from this mechanism. These are songs that contain surprise factors, prediction, rhythmic repetition, melodic power and reception.

Rare musical disgust. It is a disorder know as musical Anhedonia, which prevents people from experiencing a taste for music, apparently due to an interruption in the nerve pathways that put the ear in contact with the brain’s reward systems.

“People sing and dance together in all cultures. We know we do it today and will continue to do so in the future. We can imagine that our ancestors also did it around the fire thousands of years ago”


https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25440305/ (2020): Cortical Thickness Maturation and Duration of Music Training: Health-Promoting Activities Shape Brain Development by James Hudziak.

Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0JKCYZ8hng (2020): How playing an instrument benefits your brain by Anita Collins.

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