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Your Brain on Music

The power of music is absolutely fascinating. It doesn’t take listening to a song for very long to change our moods, and/or to get our foot tapping. The reasons behind this are being researched more and more these days so that music can benefit people suffering from anxiety or even Alzheimer Disease. The possibility that Music Therapy could replace some drug treatments would be incredible on so many levels.

Let’s break this down into two categories – listening to music and playing music (using an instrument not an iPod). When we listen to music we are impacted by psychologically, and physiologically. Psychologically speaking music distracts the brain from the body’s fatigue. Physiologically, it can increase endurance and strengthen the heart and lungs. We’ve all experienced feeling lethargic until that favourite song comes on and then … the rest is history.

Daniel Levitin of McGill University states that listening to music positively affects the regions of the brain that are responsible for movement, attention, planning and memory. He is working on determining the chemical activity of the brain that are involved in listening to music or performing it. Gaining this insight will assist in understanding what is happening and from there establish treatments for diseases, disorders and brain injuries using music.

While listening to music is wonderful, playing a musical instrument is that much better. Research has determined that it is like a full body workout for your brain because playing an instrument engages almost every part of the brain at once, specficially the visual, auditory and motor cortices. Disciplined practice of an instrument strengthens the brain functions that we can then apply in any other daily activity that require thinking.

Our brains are really quite incredible yet we don’t give them much thought (is there a pun in there somewhere?). We do focus on our bodies. We feed them, exercise them, and let them rest. It’s time to give our brains a little more attention. We can use music to do just that. If listening to music is your thing, pick a favourite song to listen to every day in a mindful way. Develop an awareness of the power that a few minutes is giving you.

If you’ve always wanted to learn how to play a musical instrument, do it now! If you do play regularly, pat yourself on the back for taking care of your brain whether that was your intention or not.

 

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