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Effects of Music

The Influence of Music on Neurons Anisha Chirmule Luciano Pavarotti once said “if children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken from them”. People are surrounded by music everyday; it affects mood, concentration, creativity, and even the ability to learn. How can a combination of a few notes have such a profound effect an on individual’s ability to learn? When in infant is born, there are billions of nerves and nerve connections in the brain that are necessary for survival. These neural connections are formed through experiences and strengthened through repetition. An infant is exposed to new situations everyday that affect the nerves in their brain, and once these connections are formed it is very difficult to reverse or rewire them. Listening to music helps to create and strengthen more neural connections because nerves that deal with the auditory system of the brain are being activated in order to hear the music.
(1). Music is a stimulus that needs to be processed by the brain because we have receptors for sensing and reacting to music. The act of processing this stimulus influences the neural connections in the brain and therefore affects other neural connections which in turn affect the outputs of the body. The Mozart effect is a phenomenon that states when an individual listens to short bursts of music, their intellectual and motor abilities increase and become more efficient.
(2). It has a profound effect on young children because their minds are still developing at a rapid rate and their neural pathways are easily influenced. The music composed by Mozart has a 60 beat per minute pattern that is repeated throughout his pieces. This pattern activates the action potentials in the right and left hemispheres of the brain and it strengthens the connections between the neurons that connect the two halves. Strengthening of the neural connections leads to more efficient information processing because the brain must concentrate on comprehending multiple stimuli and it therefore becomes capable of multitasking. The ductility of an infant’s brain must be utilized to its fullest potential, because unused nerves are rendered useless.

new neural pathways must be formed for the brain to comprehend what it is reading. These new pathways would affect the pre-existing connections and therefore many other outputs of the nervous system would be affected. Reading music increases creativity and the plasticity of neural connections because an individual must think in another mindset to understand what is presented. The plasticity is affected because not only do new neural connections need to be formed based on new experiences and stimuli, but the old pathways need to be remembered as well.

William Shakespeare once wrote, “If music be the food for love, play on”. Well, I say if music be the food for new neural pathways and increased intellectual abilities, by all means, play on.

Music research indicates that music education not only has the benefits of self-expression and enjoyment, but is linked to improved cognitive function (Schellenberg), increased language development from an early age (Legg), and positive social interaction (Netherwood). Music listening and performance impacts the brain as a whole, stimulating both halves – the analytical brain and the subjective-artistic brain, affecting a child’s overall cognitive development and possibly increasing a child’s overall intellectual capacity more than any other activity affecting the brain’s bilaterism (Yoon).

How does music stimulate the right and left hemispheres? We often hear about an analytical person, like an accountant, being left-brained while a more “free spirit”, like an artist or poet, is considered “right-brained”. Yet music research indicates that the average professional musician or composer, despite incorrect personality stereotypes, encompasses both the analytical traits of the left brain and the more creative aspects of the right brain.

The right hemisphere engages in synthesizing several different parts to create a cohesive whole when processing new information (Williams). Almost nonlinear in processing information, the right brain is adept at visual imagery. The left hemisphere, sequential and linear in its data processing, moves step by step when processing new information (Williams). Just like any part of the body, any activity that stimulates the brain helps increase its overall functionality. While most activities like visual art, computing, and language largely work in only one hemisphere, music is one of the few activities that stimulates both sides of the brain.

The right brain, often considered the more subjective and creative hemisphere, focuses on the melody in music. The left hemisphere, considered the analytical part of the brain, is responsible for the understanding of musical structure and motor skills, such as playing the violin (Yoon). Rhythmic structures uniquely affect the brain extensively, such as supplementary motor areas and the basal ganglia, especially when compared to musical styles lacking a steady beat pattern (Phillips-Silver). Nonmusical activities, such as walking or martial arts, also aid the brain bilaterally when combined with a steady rhythm (Manjul).