Cerebral Hacks

Brain Exercises

Can Music Improve Your Memory?

Guitar

Music can have a greater effect on your brain than you may have thought, and according to recent studies, certain types of music can actually help people learn languages more quickly, solve complex problems, overcome addictions, lower blood pressure, ease pain and depression and even help Alzheimer’s patients recall long forgotten memories.

A study carried out by the journal Brain showed that children who received musical training at a young age showed signs of improved memory skills when compared to children who had received no training. The study was carried out with the help of memory tests that focused on general intelligence skills like literacy, mathematics, visual processing and IQ.

Remarkably, the patients who listened to music were better off than the other two groups and showed signs of being perkier and alert.

The children, aged between four and six, were divided into two groups, those who received music lessons outside of school and those who did not. After just four months, significant differences began to show, with the children that received music training showing signs of improved IQ and memory skills which are not directly to music, like literacy, visual processing and mathematics.

It seems musical training can have a profound effect on the brain and how it develops, stores and assimilates information, so it is no wonder that scientists are recommending that music be included in primary school curriculums and possibly even pre-school curriculums.

Young children are not the only ones who are affected by music in a positive way, and adults can also stimulate their brain by listening to certain types of music. A similar study which was also carried out by the journal Brain, showed that music can help speed up the recovery process for stroke victims.

The 60 patients, all of whom were also receiving regular therapy for stroke recovery, were divided into three groups; those who listened to music, those who listened to audio books and those who listened to nothing at all. Remarkably, the patients who listened to music were better off than the other two groups and showed signs of being more perky and alert. However, there was still some uncertainty about whether or not this was because the patients enjoyed the music, which could have influenced the results.

In order to answer this question, the scientists took it a step further and studied the effects of music that the patients didn’t particularly like. In this case, the patients’ brains showed heightened activity, but their performance on tests for their perceptual senses was poor. When the patients listened to music they knew and loved, they showed minimal brain activity, but they performed a lot better on the same tests. So apparently, listening to music can make you smarter, or at least sharper, but the type of music you choose is also an important factor.

Throughout the series of tests, scientists played music from different artists including Frank Sinatra, Kenny Rogers and the Flying Burrito Brothers Band. They found that Kenny Roger’s music had the most positive effect on the patients, which resulted in the experiment’s results being named “The Kenny Rogers Effect.” But before you rush out to purchase “The Best of Kenny Rogers,” remember that while the nursing home residents may have found that the music stimulated their neurological pleasure centers, someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy country music may not find the Kenny Rogers Effect to be very therapeutic.

According to the musicologist Julius Portnoy music can also alter high or low blood pressure, improve digestion, increase (or decrease) energy levels and change metabolic rates. Portnoy found that calm music, such as classical or instrumental music, worked to relax the body by increasing the amount of endorphins in the blood.

In the same way that the right music can have a positive effect on someone’s brain, the wrong music can affect a person negatively and even has the potential to cause sickness. The lyrics themselves do not affect the brain; rather it is the rhythm, tone and melody that cause a reaction. Certain types of music, particularly rock music, can actually be harmful to organisms.

A study along these lines was carried out by exposing mice to different types of music. Out of the three groups, one was exposed to harmonic music, the other to disharmonic music and the last was used as a control group. The brains of the mice that had been exposed to disharmonic music, showed signs of brain nerve damage and behavior degradation while the other two groups showed no significant changes.

Sedative, calm music is preferred for this treatment because it is known to balance out the patient’s blood pressure and heart beat.

Just to clarify, by “behavior degradation” the scientists mean that the mice listening to heavy metal and hard rock music all killed one another. Naturally, people will draw their own conclusions from this study, but before you condemn all rock music, remember that mice are (obviously) a different species and these studies are not 100% accurate in predicting effects in humans. Although 24 hours of heavy metal just might be enough to drive even the most dedicated metal head insane.

On a more positive note, music has also been shown to be an effective tool in helping people overcome addictions. The right type of music releases hormones and neurotransmitters that are associated with the feeling of satisfaction, thus compensating for the absence of drugs when a person is going through withdrawals. Sedative, calm music is preferred for this treatment because it is known to balance out the patient’s blood pressure and heart beat.

Clearly, music is a powerful tool and can have both a positive or negative effect on its listeners. So choose your music carefully and consider what kind of effect it may be having on you and others around you.

Image by spaceabstract

Tagged ,

About Andrianes Pinantoan

Andrianes Pinantoan is a long time blogger and an avid student of the brain. He's fascinated with how the mind works and its application in everyday life. When not working, he can be found behind a lens.

View all posts by Andrianes Pinantoan →

Related Posts

3 Comments

  1. The Virtues of Daydreaming And 30 Other Surprising (And Controversial) Research Findings About How Students LearnNovember 28, 2012 at 10:10 pmReply

    [...] has a calming effect on children and adults alike. Though much of modern education focuses primarily on visual sight for learning, the auditory [...]

  2. The Virtues of Daydreaming And 30 Other Surprising (And Controversial) Research Findings About How Students Learn | Classroom AidNovember 29, 2012 at 12:51 pmReply

    [...] has a calming effect on children and adults alike. Though much of modern education focuses primarily on visual sight for learning, the auditory [...]

  3. TeachThought31 Surprising Facts About LearningNovember 29, 2012 at 4:19 pmReply

    [...] has a calming effect on children and adults alike. Though much of modern education focuses primarily on visual sight for learning, the auditory [...]

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

About Cerebral hacks

Cerebral Hacks is all about how to leverage your greatest asset: your mind. We cover everything from psychology to nutrition to help you be smarter.
Recent Tweets
Join The Conversation