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Music & Emotions: Can Music Really Make You a Happier Person?
How many times have you turned to music to uplift you even more in happy times, or sought the comfort of music when melancholy hits you?
Music touches us all. But it’s only recently that scientists have sought to explain and quantify how music affects us on an emotional level. Research into the links between melody and the mind indicates that listening to and playing music can actually change how our brains work, and therefore our bodies.
It seems that the healing power of music, on body and mind, is only beginning to be understood, even though music therapy is not new. For many years, therapists have advocated the use of music – both for listening and for studying – for anxiety and stress reduction, pain relief. And music has also been recommended as an aid for a positive shift in mood and emotional states.
Michael DeBakey, who in 1966 became the first surgeon to successfully implant an artificial heart, has publicly stated, “Creating and performing music promotes self-expression and provides personal satisfaction while giving pleasure to In medicine, more and more published reports demonstrate that music has a healing effect on patients.”
Doctors now believe that using music therapy in hospitals and nursing homes not only makes people feel better, but also heals faster. And across the country, medical experts are beginning to apply the new revelations about music’s impact on the brain to the treatment of patients.
In one study, researcher Michael Thaut and his team detailed how stroke, cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s disease victims who worked out to music took bigger, more balanced steps than those whose therapy didn’t. had no accompaniment.
Other researchers have found that the sound of drums can influence the functioning of the body. Quoted in a 2001 article in USA Today, Suzanne Hasner, chair of the music therapy department at Berklee College of Music in Boston, says that even people with dementia or brain trauma retain their musical abilities.
The article reported the results of an experiment in which researchers at the Mind-Body Wellness Center in Meadville, Pennsylvania followed 111 cancer patients who played the drums for 30 minutes a day. They found strengthened immune systems and increased levels of cancer-fighting cells in many patients.
“Deep in our long-term memory is this repeated music,” Hasner says. “It’s processed in the emotional part of the brain, the amygdala. This is where you remember the music played at your wedding, the music of your first love, that first dance. Such things can still be remembered even in people with progressive diseases. It can be a window, a way to reach them…”
The American Music Therapy Organization says music therapy can enable “emotional intimacy with families and caregivers, relaxation for the whole family, and meaningful time spent together in positive and creative ways.”
Scientists have made progress in his exploration of why music should have this effect. In 2001, Dr. Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre of McGill University in Montreal used positron emission tomography, or PET, to determine whether particular brain structures were stimulated by music.
In their study, Blood and Zatorre asked 10 musicians, five men and five women, to choose upbeat music. Subjects then received PET scans while listening to four types of audio stimuli – the selected music, other music, general noise, or silence. Each sequence was repeated three times in random order.
Blood says that when the subjects heard the music that gave them “chills,” the PET scans detected activity in parts of the brain that are also stimulated by food and sex.
Why humans have developed such a biological appreciation of music is still unclear. Appreciation for food and sex drive evolved to aid in the survival of the species, but “music did not develop strictly for survival purposes,” Blood told The Associated Press at the ‘era.
She also believes that because music activates the parts of the brain that make us happy, it suggests it can benefit our physical and mental well-being.
This is good news for patients undergoing surgeries who experience anxiety in anticipation of these procedures.
Polish researcher, Zbigniew Kucharski, at the Warsaw Medical Academy, studied the effect of acoustic therapy for fear management in dental patients. During the period from October 2001 to May 2002, 38 dental patients between the ages of 16 and 60 were observed. Patients received variations of acoustic therapy, a practice where music is received through headphones and also vibrators.
Dr. Kucharski found that negative feelings were reduced by a factor of five in patients who received 30 minutes of acoustic therapy before and after their dental procedure. For the group who heard and felt music only before the operation, feelings of fear were reduced by a factor of only 1.6.
For the last group (the control), who received acoustic therapy only during the operation, there was no change in the degree of fear experienced.
A 1992 study identified listening to music and teaching relaxation as an effective way to reduce pain and anxiety in women undergoing painful gynecological procedures. And other studies have proven that music can reduce other “negative” human emotions like fear, distress, and depression.
Sheri Robb and a team of researchers published a report in the Journal of Music Therapy in 1992 outlining their findings that music-assisted relaxation procedures (listening to music, deep breathing, and other exercises) effectively reduced anxiety. in pediatric surgical patients in a burn unit.
“Music,” Esther Mok said in the AORN Journal in February 2003, “is an easy-to-administer, non-threatening, non-invasive, and inexpensive tool for calming preoperative anxiety.”
So far, according to the same report, researchers cannot be certain why music has a calming effect on many medical patients. One school of thought believes that music can reduce stress because it can help patients relax and also lower blood pressure. Another researcher claims that music allows the body’s vibrations to synchronize with the rhythms of those around it. For example, if an anxious patient with a racing heartbeat listens to slow music, his heartbeat will slow down and synchronize with the rhythm of the music.
Such results are still something of a mystery. The incredible ability of music to affect and manipulate emotions and the brain is undeniable, and yet still largely unexplainable.
Besides brain activity, the effect of music on hormone levels in the human body can also be quantified, and there is definitive evidence that music can lower cortisol levels in the body (associated with excitement and stress) and increase melatonin levels (which can induce sleep). It can also precipitate the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkiller.
But how does music succeed in provoking emotions in us? And why are these emotions often so powerful? The simple answer is that no one knows…yet. So far, we can quantify some of the emotional responses to music, but we can’t explain them yet. But it is okay. I don’t need to understand electricity to benefit from the light when I turn on a lamp when I walk into a room, and I don’t need to understand why music can make me feel better emotionally. That’s right – our Creator made us that way.
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