Music And The Brain: How Does Music Affect The Brain?

Music And The Brain: How Does Music Affect The Brain?

While there is not a definite answer yet, those trained in the science of the mind and behavior, and other scientists, are slowly beginning to develop theories as to why music might have an effect on intelligence.

Music is so universal that almost everyone listens to it. Every known culture in the world has music. It is a form of art and a way of expressing emotions without words. It has been proven that music influences humans both in good and bad ways, and people perceive and respond to music in different ways. There are many bodily responses to music such as strengthening or weakening emotions from a particular event (such as at a funeral) or affecting people’s memory.

The influence of music on society can be seen clearly from modern history. Thomas Jefferson played the violin for hours at a time while in the process of writing The Declaration of Independence to help him relax enough to write. Albert Einstein, recognized as one of the smartest men who has ever lived, was very fond of music as well and played the violin and piano. Not only was music relaxing to Einstein, but it also helped him with his work on his theories. He would go back and forth from working on a theory to playing a few chords on the piano, jotting something down and then returning to his study. In both cases, music has influenced these well-known people in history, specifically helping them to focus and relax when trying to perform a task.

A number of studies have indicated that listening to Mozart's work may temporarily increase cognitive skills however other studies have found no significant effects. “The Mozart Effect” is a study that includes various hypotheses suggesting that listening to Mozart’s music can increase your intelligence, help you with short-term improvement on certain tasks, or that listening to classical music in early childhood has had a beneficial effect on mental development. This was first started by Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis in his 1991 book, “Pourquoi Mozart?” and talked about how classical music stimulates the brain.

It has been found that slow music can slow down your heartbeat and the breathing rate, plus bring down blood pressure. The brain can respond in different ways based off of the order of the music such as from the Baroque and Classical periods. This includes repetition and changes, certain patterns of rhythm, and pitch/contrasts in mood, and all this causes the human mind to perform better when listening to this order of music. King George I of England had problems with memory loss and stress management so he read from the Bible the story of King Saul and recognized that Saul had experienced the same type of problems that he was experiencing. George recognized that Saul overcame his problems by using special music. With this story in mind, King George asked George Frederick Handel to write some special music for him that would help him in the same way that music helped Saul. Handel wrote his Water Music for this purpose- one cannot deny the power of music.

In a recent survey that I created online, I asked friends, family and peers (through Facebook, email and other social media) to answer the questions I asked them. I had surveyed a hundred people of all different ages and from different areas, depending on who took the survey. In my data analysis, eighty-three percent of the people said they listen to classical music, or sometimes listen to it. The next question I asked was how often they listen to classical music and most wrote in answers of once or twice a week and some never listening to classical music at all. Of the hundred people surveyed, sixty-two people said they found classical music helped them focus when performing a certain task. The other thirty-eight people didn’t find classical music to help them focus when performing a task, most adding on that it is actually distracting for them. Forty percent said that they found classical music to be the most relaxing genre of music. The reason I created this survey was to see how connected my friends, family and peers are with classical music.

There are many benefits to listening to classical music. One benefit is that it helps you increase physical performance. When you’re working out, music can make you cycle harder, run faster, boost your endurance, and sometimes improve your overall motivation about exercise. Another benefit is that music can help you get the quality sleep that your body needs because it helps you to relax your body physically while calming your mind. “College students affected by insomnia showed improvement when they substituted random sleep aids with forty-five minutes of classical music therapy” (Health Wire). Classical music has also helped ease chronic pain naturally. People in recovery from surgery, dealing with disability, etc. have been helped to reprogram the brain to focus on the music rather than the physical pain.

Classical music has been proven to improve mood and lower stress. If you are feeling anxious, sad, or out of control, taking a few minutes to stop for a little while and listen to music has helped to control those emotions. Studies have found that it has the same physiological effect of a massage. This technique causes positive chemical reactions within your brain that help with symptoms of stress and depression. But avoid listening to hard music or club beats if your emotions are chaotic since science has proven that they can sometimes make a bad situation worse emotionally. In Germany, they are testing the use of Mozart to lower driver aggression on the nation’s highways.

While there is not a definite answer yet, those trained in the science of the mind and behavior, and other scientists, are slowly beginning to develop theories as to why music might have an effect on intelligence. If anything, classical music has been proven to change some ways our bodies function, and has some effect on how we react to it, based off of studies of many different subjects. Why do we listen to music? We listen for entertainment, relaxation, to tell a story, etc. and so we’re all using music to affect our emotions. The music does affect us even when we don’t realize it. Since music is so universal, even the person reading this article has most likely listened to music and their brain has made some sort of reaction no matter what the music was.

Cover Image Credit: Google

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Line Dancing Gave Me Confidence

I have gained the confidence I needed, but I still need to work on it a little more.

Have you ever wanted to get out of your comfort zone, but not sure how? Try something new, but not sure what? Something that is completely new, you’ve never done it before? Something that you’ve wanted to, but never knew how to go about it?

For me, I’ve always been the one who is down to try something new, but I’m also the one who is terrified of trying because I'm always a little shy in trying something different with people I didn’t know. I was always doing sports growing up as well as in high school. I mostly played soccer but did volleyball for fun.

Needless to say, I was in need of a change of activity. Lucky for me my friend was introduced to line dancing through her aunt and she automatically thought that I would be interested in going with them. It was sometime in 2014 when we started going to the Mishnock Barn and needless to say, I fell in love and I have become addicted.

My first time at Mishnock Barn was a little scary for me. It was something completely new for me, I was scared that if I messed up they would get mad. However, I was completely wrong, they don’t care if you mess up--all they care about is if you’re having fun and as long as you try your best and are facing the right wall it’s all that matters.

I never thought I’d like it as much as I did/do, but I did. For the first few weeks I took the beginning lessons, but after awhile I stopped taking the lessons. I would learn the dances by watching people dance it, which is something they advise them not to do. They always say “Don’t watch other people’s feet.”

As time progressed we were getting more and more into it and enjoying ourselves even more. After a while, I got more into it and started to enjoy myself even more. You could say I was becoming addicted.

I got my first pair of boots for my 18th birthday (Nov. 11, 2014). It was a gift from my neighbor as well as my mom. Being a part of Mishnock is honestly my favorite, it’s my favorite place to be.

After a while, I got to get to know the people who go. Getting to go to the different events with everyone; from going to the Washington County Fair, the Pawsox game, seeing Billy Gilman live at Mishnock twice, the fundraisers, the Christmas party, New Years party, the costume contests during Halloween, dancing at the Warwick Mall. Each time I got to dance I enjoyed being a part of it.

I no longer go with the ones who introduced me to line dancing, but I am grateful they introduced me to it. I have made a lot of new friends just by dancing there and not staying at the one table.

I’ve been asked if I’ve lost weight, at first I didn’t really believe that I have. I kept hearing it and getting comments on me losing weight until I decided to look through pictures and I found a picture from when I first started going till now and I have lost weight. I’ve been dancing for about 4 years now and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

My favorite part of Mishnock, besides the dancing, is the people. They have become like my second family, every time I walk in I feel like I’m home. They welcome everyone with a smile and are always helping those who don’t know a dance. It has come to a point where I no longer take the lessons and if Dan (the owner and an instructor) sees me not dancing he gives me a look as if asking why I’m not dancing.

There was one time I knew the dance but I was going to wait to dance it after, but he saw me and looked at me, he moved over and pointed next to him. He didn’t start the dance until I was next to him.

I’ve met a lot of people there through my time going. Their names are Taylor, Josh, Becca, Tessa, Becca’s mom, Jesse, Addison, and others. Getting to dance with them every week is my favorite thing. We always have a blast, we can never stop laughing.

It did take awhile for us all o become friends, but in the end, I’m glad to call them my family. Everytime we dance together it’s a blast, all we do is laugh and have a good time. Half the time we aren’t even sure why we are laughing, we make jokes all the time with each other as we are dancing.

With line dancing, I have gained confidence as time went on. At first, I was scared of messing up and I was overthinking the dances too much. Soon after I started making friends with everyone there I stopped caring. I stopped caring what people thought of me as I danced, I started dancing like no one was watching.

I’m a little weird when I dance, but honestly, I stopped caring what people think about me. Now, whenever I hear music I just start dancing, when I hear songs on the radio I think of what dance we do or what we could do to that song.

I have also found out that my grandma was a line dance instructor at one point and her and my grandpa loved to dance. This would explain my addiction and why I love it so much.

My mom also was taught but that didn’t go so well and she won’t learn a dance now. We have all tried getting her on the dance floor, but needless to say, it hasn’t really worked out. She will go to the different events with me and she would go to Mishnock with me sometimes, but she would never learn a dance, she would sit there watching or on her phone doing something.

I would recommend line dancing to everyone, it’s a lot of fun and you won’t regret it. It’s something different, but it is enjoyed by many. Even if you don’t think you’ll like it at least try it.

Cover Image Credit: Amy McPherson

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Cursing In Poetry: Why It's Awesome And Should Be Done More Often

Throw away your bleep buttons and censors, and let's read some "vulgarity".

As a writer, you’re bound to read works that have that classic aesthetic of flowery language. I’m a sucker for this stuff. The old diction and fancy vocabulary transports me back to a time where everyone wrote with a quill or there were women wearing those bulky, regal dresses. While I enjoy this, I still feel that this poetry is the type people typically envision when they think of the topic. It’s always Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Poe, and Dickinson. It’s always “thou”, “thee”, and “thine”. There has to be some kind of variety, something that punches a reader more so than gently caress them.

In my African-American Literature class, we read Sonia Sanchez’s poem “Malcom”. In it, she uses the “f-bomb,” and for a poem during 1965, coming from a woman, I feel that this was an oddity but extremely powerful.

Her usage of cursing signifies raw emotion. It gets straight to the point instead of “sugar coating” it. It also makes the poem more realistic. By including it, she delves into real-life and actual vernacular people use. In a moment of anger or pain, no one will say, “O dear! My misery must be a-taken away! Hope, stricketh my heart with thou’s wonderous rays.”

Curse words come off as being obscene, but poetry is viewed as something short, fragile, and aesthetically pleasing. The two seem in opposition with each other, but when combined with a purpose, the outcome is more poignant.

It hits you. It’s that punch I mentioned earlier. It’s unexpected and sounds like someone stomping their foot down in one forceful motion. BAM! There, that’s it. The same could be said for poetry too. It’s quick but carries such significant meaning behind it. Everything, every word, every line, every break, is deliberate. Nothing is used for a filler, and curses are used to make that point known.

I highly recommend reading poems with curse words. “Malcom” by Sonia Sanchez and “This Be the Verse” by Philip Larkin are good starts.

We give words their power, so let’s use them to our advantage.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram

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