Recent studies scientifically analyze the sensations that music brings. Verdict: in addition to being soft on the ear, it acts on the brain and even on the body.
The benefits of music would have more impact on the brain than previously thought. “It’s an activity specific to humans, and we’re trying to understand why and how the brain processes it. What we now know: music has biological and not only cultural reasons,” explains Emmanuel Bigand, professor of cognitive psychology, specializing in music and researcher at the CNRS.
The Neural Symphony
We do not realize it but, when we listen to music, the brain starts like an orchestra. “Neurons are like musicians, they have to synchronize for the brain to develop its potentialities. This is why we talk about a neural symphony,” says Emmanuel Bigand. From a medical point of view, three reactions take place. First chemical, since music generates the production of hormones such as dopamine – the hormone of reward and satisfaction – and endorphin – the hormone of happiness with an analgesic power in the same way as morphine or opioids. Then, a motor effect makes you want to move or dance. And, finally, a plasticity effect: different areas of the brain connect with each other to convey the auditory message. The language area is also activated, as the brain tries to understand the melody and the feelings it makes it feel. “As a result, music acts on a very wide field of the brain, so its activity is intense, even more so than when you read,” explains Guillaume Descottes, founder of the Vialma platform, a streaming service dedicated to classical music and jazz.
Boost your memory
According to recent studies by the CNRS and Harvard University, 30% of the songs we like to listen to again are associated with personal memories. “Immersing yourself in it makes your emotional memory work. This is why music is increasingly used to accompany people who suffer from Alzheimer’s or senile dementia. A specific playlist has even been designed for this on Vilma,” says Guillaume Descottes. The good idea: watch on the Internet the video of Marta Gonzalez, a former star with Alzheimer’s disease who starts dancing “Swan Lake” again listening to Tchaikovsky.
Reduce stress and increase energy
When music has a slow tempo, blood pressure drops. “It reduces pain in a pre-and post-operative context, and allows you to consume fewer medications,” says Guillaume Descottes. The ideal playlist to relax, according to the specialist: “Classic adagios, such as those of Barber and Albinoni, bring an immediate relaxing effect. On the contrary, to regain energy, we bet on Wagner, for example, because it is a piece of catchy and passionate music. Or on the “Ode to Joy” of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, because the choirs, very numerous, provide a sense of belonging. Finally, all the music of Steven Spielberg’s films, composed by John Williams, gives the peach. The opportunity to see again “Jaws” or “Indiana Jones” and its credits with its famous trumpets. Still, the doping power of music is now proven, to the point that the French Athletics Federation has banned its listening during competitions since we know that it increases sports performance by 5% to 7%.
Developing the creative
Finally, when we listen to a piece of jazz, a music that leaves a lot of room for improvisation and therefore induces a feeling of freedom since the musicians communicate and pass the ball back to each other, the brain unconsciously begins to create. “Automatically, it seeks to calculate the melodies and finish them. The result is a feeling of gratitude and the desire to swing,” explains Guillaume Descottes. The good news: “No need to have studied music, we all have in us a potential as a musician,” concludes Emmanuel Bigand.
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