How long have humans enjoyed music? Did Neanderthals sing lullabies to their babies before putting them to bed? However humble its beginnings were, music today is a cherished and daily part of many people’s lives. Considering how fond we are of our tunes, one might wonder if humans benefit on a cellular level from music.
What exactly happens inside of us when we hear music? First, receptors in our inner ear are excited by sound. The receptors send the information to a part of our brain called the primary auditory cortex, where the auditory association area determines what type of sound we are hearing. From there, other areas of the brain, such as the frontal lobe, can help determine what kind of emotional response we will have to the music.
Music has been used for therapeutic reasons for thousands of years and is referenced in many cultures’ ancient historical writing, including the Bible. Today, music therapy helps treat people who suffer from a myriad of disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders, pain disorders, autism and many mental health disorders.
So what can music do for those who are not suffering from a disease or disorder? Some well- known benefits of music include:
- Provides stress and pain relief due to the release of endorphins
- Improves athletic performance
- Aids in a good night’s sleep
- Increases enjoyment and happiness
- Enriches social situations
- Triggers pleasant memories
Studies Support Health Advantages of Music
The health benefits of music have been well documented and have led to a growing field of health care known as music therapy. Research has shown music can alter brainwaves, breathing and heart rate. According to an article by Harvard Medicine, piano music by Mozart reduced stress response, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, and supported the healing process for critically ill patients who were recovering from surgery.
The type of music listened to may be the key though. Harvard Medicine points to another study done to compare the effect of different kinds of music on the speed and accuracy of surgeon’s performance during a computer simulated procedure. The music types chosen for the experiment were Mozart, German folk music, death metal or no music. The classical music (Mozart) showed the most promise at improving the subject’s performance, while the death metal music was detrimental to the performance.
Depending on your lifestyle and reason for listening, music can help reduce stress and keep you calm, bring sharper concentration and quick thinking, or get your heart racing and blood pumping. Whatever your purpose, music can enrich your life and improve your health. The long-term health benefits of music may also help you outlive your term life insurance policy!
How does music enhance your life?