Neurological Impact of Songs
Default mode network (DMN), a circuit in the brain responsible for empathy, thought, and self-awareness gets more connected when listeners listen to their favorite music and is less connected when they listen to ordinary music. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) is activated while listening to music. This interactive neuroendocrine unit is responsible for the regulation of hormone cortisol, control of the immune system, stress, mood, and attention
ELEMENTS OF A SONG
- Default mode network (DMN), a circuit in the brain responsible for empathy, thought, and self-awareness gets more connected when listeners listen to their favorite music and is less connected when they listen to ordinary music.
- Listening to favorite music increases the connection between auditory brain areas and areas of the brain responsible for social emotion and memory.
- Slow waves in songs are associated with a relaxed brain state and fast wave in songs is associated with arousal state.
- The brain's left hemisphere activation is observed with pleasant music and right hemisphere activation with unpleasant music.
Parts of the Brain — Positive and Negative Reaction to Songs
- The caudal anterior cingulate cortex is an area in the brain responsible for music memory. It's motor area has shown less cortical atrophy and minimal disruption glucose metabolism in the case of Alzheimer's disease. Hence, music enhances memory recollection even in Alzheimer's patients, as it acts as a mnemonic aid.
- Bilateral fronto-temporal activation is observed while listening to songs. Left temporal activation is noticed while listening to positive emotional songs and right temporal activation is observed while listening to negative emotional songs.
- Dopamine, a neurotransmitter is released while listening to favorite songs which is responsible for emotional and cognitive functioning.
- Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) activation is observed while listening to music which is responsible for the regulation of hormone cortisol, control of the immune system, stress, mood, and attention.
- The release of opioids in the brain is observed while listening to songs. Opioids are natural painkillers, therefore, listening to music reduces pain.
- Oxytocin, the love hormone is released by the brain while listening to songs which ultimately results in social bonding.
- The activity of various emotion-related regions of the brain such as anterior ventral tegmental area (VTA), locus coeruleus, temporal pole (TP), amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, and anterior cerebellum increases while listening to music.
- Levels of B-endorphin and Acth which are responsible for inducing stress decreases while listening to songs.
- Music triggers the cerebellum and motor cortex which results in physical movements such as dancing and tapping floor.
- The decline in neuron degeneration is observed with music practice and listening to music. This aids in the treatment of various dementias with general behavioral and cognitive symptoms.
- The brain has a complex relationship with music in general.
- For example, when a song is first heard, it activates the auditory cortex and we then convert the rhythms, melodies, and harmonies into an understandable whole. From that point on, how a person reacts depends solely on how they interact with it.
- If a person decides to sing along to a song in their head, they will activate their premotor cortex, which is the area of the brain that helps plan and coordinate movements. If that same person also decides to dance to the song, their neurons will synchronize with the beat of the music.
- Further, when individuals start to pay close attention to the lyrics and instrumentation, they will activate their parietal cortex, which helps shift and maintain attention to different stimuli.
- If a person listens to a song that makes them recall personal memories, the prefrontal cortex which maintains information relevant to personal life and relationships will be activated.
- Images of the brain show that a person's favorite song will activate the brain’s pleasure connections, which in turn, releases a rush of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and other neurochemicals that make a person feel good. In fact, the more a person likes a song, the more they get treated by "neurochemical bliss", exposing the brain with some of the same neurotransmitters that cocaine chases after.
- Scientists in Germany and Norway analyzed 80,000 chords in 745 songs listed in the US Billboard 'Hot 100' chart between 1958 and 1991. They removed elements including lyrics and melody from the songs. Further, they looked at the brain activity of 79 study participants listening to them, using a technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). "They found that brain activity increased in three regions: the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the auditory cortex when the test subjects were listening to music." These regions play a role in processing emotions, learning and memory, and processing sound, respectively.