The Mental Benefits
The role of music in one’s life is an important one. As noted in the most recent post, there are several emotional benefits to playing and listening to music, whether it’s bright and happy, slow and relaxed, or sometimes even somber.
And, since music engages every part of the brain, there are also numerous ways it mentally enhances us.
Handpicked Songs Increase Productivity
Hearing music, especially that selected by the listener, has been shown to boost performance in the workplace (as well as in the world of academia).
Studies have documented that office employees who choose their own music are likely to finish tasks faster and devise better solutions than their colleagues who are not allowed to listen to their preferred type of music.
Having Trouble Paying Attention?
A correlation has been made between listening to tranquil classics or relaxing music and an increase in the length and strength of concentration regardless of the listener’s age or ability level.
Although it has not yet been determined which kind of music is best, or what musical environment is required, a number of studies have noted the connection between music and attention span.
A Lesson in Music
Whether music is taught in school or at home, it can help students improve their test scores and language development as well as increase their spatial intelligence (understanding how things work together).
Learning music at an early age promotes brain plasticity (the brain’s capacity to change and grow), and children who study music have been shown to perform better in reading, math, and language arts than their non-musical peers. As few as four years of music lessons has been linked to increased brain functionality, even when tested forty years later.
A study conducted on babies who were not yet old enough to walk or talk revealed that those who listened to nursery rhymes and were shown how to play drums smiled more often and communicated better than infants who were not given music lessons.
How’s Your Memory?
Songs, especially those composed by Mozart, have the power to affect memory. A pattern of sixty beats per minute—which defines a considerable amount of baroque music—concurrently stimulates the left and right brain, an action that maximizes the retention of information. Furthermore, playing an instrument, and singing, simultaneously engages each side of the brain, allowing the brain to better process information.
Studies have shown that particular types of music are adept at helping listeners recall memories. Material learned while listening to a certain song can often be recalled simply by thinking of that song.
Does Age Matter?
Music has been shown to improve memory performance in people of all ages. The benefits of musical training at a young age are plentiful, and clear evidence exists that children who study music develop better memories than their peers who go without music lessons.
Perhaps more interesting, though, is that seniors who take up an instrument for the first time or who regularly sing and dance reap great psychological rewards. That’s because music has been shown to ward off memory problems and cognitive decline more than most other activities.
So now we know music can boost our spirits, increase our memory retention and recall, and helps us be more productive. In the third installment of this three-part series on how music affects the brain, we’ll explore the many physical benefits attributed to listening to and playing music.