Every society throughout history has embraced music of one kind or another. Why do we love music, and what does it do for us? Well, for one thing, research has shown that music influences our mind in interesting ways.
In a study conducted by the University of Helsinki in Finland,
researchers studied the effects of listening to classical music on the
human brain. A group of participants, involving some individuals with
musical experience and others without, listened to the full 20 minutes
of W.A. Mozart’s violin concerto Nr. 3, G-major, K.216.
What they found was that listening to the music caused both neuronal
and physiological changes in the participants. The music enhanced gene
expression in the secretion and transport of dopamine, synaptic
neurotransmission, as well as memory and learning processes.
researchers also found that listening to the music also down-regulated
genes mediating neurodegeneration, while up-regulating genes that are
involved in learning songs and singing in songbirds. This link with
songbirds suggested a similar connection of sound perception across
“The up-regulation of several genes that are known to be responsible
for song learning and singing in songbirds suggest a shared evolutionary
background of sound perception between vocalizing birds and humans,”
said lead study author Dr. Irma Jarvela, associate professor at the
University of Helsinki.
One of the up-regulated genes that received the biggest impact from
listening to the music was synuclein-alpha (SNCA). SNCA is found in the
linkage region of the brain with the greatest involvement in musical
aptitude, and is known to be a risk gene for Parkinson’s disease.
Considering that the exposure to the music down-regulated genes that
are linked with neurodegeneration suggests that music has a
neuroprotective role. However, these effects appeared to be isolated to
participants with a background in musical experience.
“The effect was only detectable in musically experienced
participants, suggesting the importance of familiarity and experience in
mediating music-induced effects,” the researchers explained.
The Mozart Effect
The study from Finland is only one of many that has evaluated how
classical music might impact the human brain. Nearly everyone has heard
of the “Mozart Effect,” which was widely promoted following a study from
the 1990s. The study was discussed in the journal Nature, and it
sparked the idea that listening to the music of Mozart and other
classical composers could make you smarter.
In particular, it was urged that parents should play classical music
for their young infants to start them off on a journey to higher
intelligence. However, upon review it was found that the study had been
misconstrued. The original research had been conducted on adults, not
children. Also, it involved a temporary cognitive improvement regarding
spatial tasks that only lasted for approximately fifteen minutes.
A 2006 study conducted in Britain, which involved 8,000 children,
showed that popular music of the time had an even stronger effect on
cognitive improvement, determined by tests involving paper shapes. These
findings would suggest that personal preference may also come into play
in the effectiveness of musical exposure.
Boost your IQ by playing music yourself
biggest demonstrated improvement on intelligence from music has been
shown to result in studies where participants played the music
themselves. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that
children who had music lessons while growing up developed faster brain
responses to speech in their later years. This finding was true even
when they had not played their instruments in quite some time.
Researchers involved in this study found that the longer a person
spent playing instruments in their childhood, the faster their brains
responded to the sound of speech.
“What happens when we get older is that neural responses slow down,
especially in response to very fast and complicated sounds like
consonants,” explained researcher Dr. Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at
Northwestern University. “After a year of training, the kids who have
been in the music training are better able to synchronize to the beat
and to remember the beat.”
Need more proof? Research by Jessica Grahn, a cognitive scientist at
the Western University of London, Ontario, revealed that a year of piano
lessons and regular, consistent practice can result in a three-point
increase in IQ.
So, whether you’ve been playing for years or are a pure beginner,
taking up an instrument, or tapping into the melody of your own voice,
could do your brain a lot of good!
-The Alternative Daily