Thursday, September 16, 2010

Music makes you smarter, happier

Music energizes the soul of all humanity. It excites the brain and animates the spirit, accumulating evidence shows. That is why music is so enduring and pervasive.

When we listen to music (it is as if) the brain is on fire. According to Nina Kraus at Northwestern University, music has "a pervasive effect on how the nervous system gets moulded and shaped ... a transformation that comes about only with active engagement with sound."

Researches confirm that listening to music at a very young age improves spatial and temporal reasoning, and increases aptitude in mathematics, engineering and some games, such as chess.
The impact of playing a musical instrument is even more impressive.

Recent information indicates music can boost brain power and that musically-trained children have enhanced visio-spatial processing capabilities, better memories and higher overall intelligence.

Some neuroscientists call it the "Mozart effect," the collective benefits acquired through playing and/or listening to music.

Music processing is an "ensemble activity" involving many areas of brain circuitry. Studies show that music impacts on almost every important region of the brain: prefrontal cortex, motor cortex, cerebellum, hippocampus, amygdala, sensory cortex, nucleus accumbens and auditory cortex, some of which are vital in long-term memory retention.

Accordingly, music impacts on the brain's pleasure centres.

Babies are born with a musical readiness that includes a basic sense of timing and rhythm.
Specific taste in music tends to freeze in early adulthood, rarely changing thereafter.

(People) tend to form enduring preferences during a sensitive period in their lives, the researchers report. Musical tastes are strongly related to song-specific ages (the age at the time the song was popular), peaking in late adolescence or early adulthood (23.5 years of age).
"Music styles popular during youth generate preferences over other styles of music that tend to prevail for the rest of their lives," they explained.

That is why listening to music that was popular during one's youth can be therapeutic. Such nostalgic music can be beneficial in treating dementia, anxiety, stroke, cancer, some respiratory ailments and some types of brain injury.

Music significantly boosts the self-images of children and has hugely beneficial impacts in the treatment of some hospitalized children.


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