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World Music Day | How Your Brain Interprets Music

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Don’t we all just love it when our morning commute is filled with great music and zero traffic? Whether on a morning run, or your daily commute – music has become an integral part of the human evolution and culture, and runs deep in our psyche. It’s become routine – almost a ritual, to plug in our headphones and groove to music no matter where we go, when we go, or how we go. Why? It’s pretty simple. Devoid of race, creed or language, music knows to tug at just the right heartstrings. It doesn’t matter that there’s a stranger next to you, or that you woke up on the wrong side of the bed – music just gets you, even on days you’ve run dry.

On World Music Day, 2019, we thought of digging a little deeper into how the music we listen to, can influence the way we think, act, and the way our days pan out. Evolutionarily speaking, music has shaped societies, and it isn’t a surprise that music has always had a seat on every journey, at the table of every party, dinner and social setting.

Music releases dopamine in the brain

We know how good music makes us feel, and how it uplifts us at our worst. Thankfully, neuroscience today has found the answer to a looming question – why does music make us feel the way we do?

You’ve probably heard and read several times that music releases dopamine in the brain every time someone’s listening. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brain that is responsible for the emotions we feel on any given day, our cognitive functioning, and our behaviour. In simple words, dopamine is that ‘feel good’ hormone that is activated every time we’re going through a range of gratifying experiences.

Music has shown to aid and improve the cognitive functioning of the human brain over the years. Our human brains were in fact attuned to music from centuries ago. Studies have shown that listening to music, when compared other regular cognitive functions like eating and sleeping, releases more dopamine in the brain. This is why, when you’re listening to music that you love, your brain instantly releases more dopamine and you experience a range of emotions like happiness, love, euphoria, or sadness.

It alters our brain chemistry

Science has shown that listening to music causes changes in our brain’s chemistry, much akin to the euphoria one feels when on any mind-altering substance. To put it in simple words, you come home at the end of your day longing for some music that will help you relax and unwind – and unwind it does.

Research says that though we listen to different genres of music, the region of our brain that interprets this music, also interprets its effects as almost identical. The parts of your brain that come into play in movement, logical reasoning, memory, and other vital functions, get activated when you’re listening to music. This shows that the human brain on music isn’t just a one-dimensional response to sound, but has a deeper meaning which permeates in the way we think, analyse, reason, and behave.

It is unifying

Music has the capacity to unite us all in a way that nothing else can.

For example, this year’s ICC World Cup 2019 anthem – Feel the Magic in the Air, brought entire nations and people together in a spirit of sportsmanship and unity. And this is not just in cricket; year after year, we’ve seen people of all ages and ethnicities, coming together with the FIFA anthem on their lips.

How is it that millions resonate with songs that they do not even understand? How do people who do not speak a language, sing that language? These anthems become so memorable that you can sing them years later and still feel the same kind of emotions, and tap your feet to the beat. Our brains are so fond of patterns and repetitions that it can predict the next beat of any song; and as soon as our brain identifies this pattern, we begin to tap our feet to music that we haven’t even heard before.

When we listen to music, we aren’t just tuned-in to its sound; the brain interprets it as deeply meaningful, and mind-altering, boosting our cognitive capacity and function. The symphonies in music are indeed symphonies of life, and vice versa.

Hit the right notes today and every day. Be it 90s Bollywood or the 70s Rock n’ Roll, Psytrance or EDM — give your brain that added boost with great music on your daily commute.

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2 thoughts on “World Music Day | How Your Brain Interprets Music Leave a comment

  1. It is truly amazing how music can affect our moods or help us be more (or less) productive. The impact of music on our brains is astounding.

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