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.
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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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Where You Will Be Happiest Settling Down, According To Your Zodiac Sign

Use your horoscope to discover where you would be happiest settling down.
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You ever experience a stroke of wanderlust and have the urge to just pick up and move? Here's where you're headed, according to your zodiac sign.

1. Cancer – little cabin in the woods.

I'm starting with Cancer because we are currently in Cancer season (June 21 - July 22). Cancer is a water sign that is known to be easy-going and affectionate. Cancer's romanticism and obsession with happiness will leave them quite content with a little log cabin in the woods, where they can snuggle up to their love and fall asleep to the sound of rain.

2. Leo – Los Angeles.

"Hopped off the plane at LAX, with a dream and my cardigan. Welcome to land of fame excess."

Leos, AKA Lions, are fire signs known for their love of the spotlight and all things exciting. Fun-loving Leos belong in the city of angels, also known as, LA.

3. Virgo – the suburbs.

The name Virgo comes from the word "virgin," and the innocence also applies to their hardworking and kind personality, where many of them prove to be the purest of people. This Earth sign is known for their tendency to worry too much, therefore they belong someplace safe and suburban somewhere out west.

4. Libra – Paris

This air sign is characterized by their love of romance, and therefore day dream about the city of love: none other than Paris, France.

5. Scorpio – Canadian mountains.

Also known as Psycho Scorpio, this water sign is known for being quick-witted, mysterious, and wise beyond their years. But Scorpios aren't particular fans of anyone who isn't themselves, so they would be thrilled in a secluded mountaintop mansion in Canada where no one can get to them and they can scheme world domination in private.

6. Sagittarius – New York City.

"If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere!"

This fire sign, which spans Thanksgiving and Christmas time, dreams of travelling the world. These feisty and restless people can never stay in one place doing one thing for that long. Therefore, they belong in the city of dreams AND the city that does Thanksgiving and Christmas like no one else can: the Big Apple.

7. Capricorn – New England countryside.

This earth sign is known for its down-to-earth and responsible nature. Capricorns are the dependable and trustworthy people you can always lean on. My mother, my best friend, and my boyfriend are all Capricorns, and I don't think it's a coincidence.

Capricorns are best suited for the countryside, because they value their peace and quiet so much.

8. Aquarius – Myrtle Beach.

This air sign is known for its subdued nature and love of anything having to do with sunshine, warm weather, and water. Therefore they belong in the South – namely tourist central of South Carolina: Myrtle Beach. Aquarius will be right at home among the hustle and bustle of a mini beach city year round.

9. Pisces – Hawaiian Islands.

This water sign, which is ruled by Neptune, and symbolized by the fish, obviously belongs on the water. Pisces are imaginative and artsy, too, often dreaming of a more beautiful world. Pisces should move to Hawaii because their appreciation for beauty and the ocean will be fulfilled there. They will be right at home on the pink and black sand beaches or by the natural forest waterfalls.

10. Aries – New Orleans.

This fire sign carries a strong enthusiasm for life and round-the-clock energy, which leads them to "Big Easy" New Orleans, Louisiana. Can you think of a place any more fun?

11. Taurus – Italian villa.

This Earth sign is known for being realistic, level-headed, and in tune to the natural world. Because of Taurus' love of cooking, gardening, and loving the world we're in, Taurus would be very happy on an Italian villa, with land to roam and garden flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Put a table on your patio, and Taurus is ready for a late evening, candlelit, outdoor dinner.

12. Gemini – Boston.

This air sign is symbolized by the twins because of Gemini's two personalities: the angel and the devil. And after living in Boston for two years, I discovered Boston has two sides of its own: one is the downtown, hustle and bustle of the dirty grimy city we all love anyway, and the other is the deep American history around every corner and the way Boston is all wrapped up to make it feel like a small town sometimes.

Boston has everything so Gemini will never be bored: the thrill of the city, the wonderful history of colonial America, the greenery of the Boston Common, and the water, which provides a taste of nautical life. Gemini's best fit would be a top-floor Beacon Hill apartment in Back Bay, because it's an escape from the busy city life without missing out on any of the action.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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It Is Pointless To Pity The Homeless

Guilt is the silent killer of political action.

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Two summers ago, when I was an intern at The Father McKenna Center in Washington DC, I met Jason, who was homeless. I had just finished closing the shelter's computer lab for the evening, and the attendees of the AA meeting in the shelter's cafeteria had started to say their goodbyes and disperse until next week. As I was leaving to take the subway home, and as he was leaving to walk back to his encampment, wherever it may have been, Jason and I converged with each other at the front door of the shelter, and we introduced ourselves to each other.

Jason had two children, aged four and six, both of whom were protected from him under custody by his former wife. She had made the decision to divorce him because of his drug use, which posed a danger to the couple's children. (Jason did not hesitate to admit to this.) Shortly after the separation from his family, he became homeless. He had a high school degree and some former experience doing construction work. Aged into his mid 30's with minimal employment, Jason had been struggling to find a job for years.

As we walked, he told me about his kids, and how sometimes he hears about them during occasional phone calls with his wife. For a moment, he turned his head to look at me in my eyes, and he quietly told me about how proud he was of his daughters for completing the first and third grades of elementary school.

If you are homeless, it takes an immense amount of courage to make the commitment to go to a homeless shelter. I believe that the one thing that most people struggle with, homeless or not, is the challenge of confronting one's own demons. Jason had demons, luggage, regrets, and so on - I had those too. Jason had first stepped at The Father McKenna Center shortly before I began my internship. As I performed the duties of my internship, Jason and I, together, experienced a great turbulence in our individual missions to confront our demons; and with that turbulence came sobriety. Not relief or improvement, but sobriety. True self-improvement is a year-long commitment, but self-awareness is a skill which can be utilized at any time.

Jason and I spoke several times throughout my internship. One of the last interactions I had with his before I completed my term happened again at the front entrance of the shelter. He told me that after years of searching, he had found the initiative to apply for a job. "Even though she and I needed to go our own ways," he said, "I still want to show my wife that I care about her. We're not married, but I still want to provide for her and the kids. I don't know how they feel about me, but I want to show my daughters that I am still their father, and that I love them."

When I started my internship at the shelter, I genuinely believed that I would come out of it depressed and disillusioned. But I learned to look beyond the misfortune and suffering, and with that perspective, I started to find more and more inspiration in the facets of life by which I had previously felt discouraged and depressed. I have not seen Jason in two summers, but I think about him every day, for strength.

Say, for instance, that you start to feel as though the daily grind of your summer job is starting to become too monotonous. Us undergrads are tirelessly told by our advisors that the best possible use of our time during the summer, outside of college and other than working for pay, is time spent volunteering and building up our resumes. After some online research and phone calls, you break down your volunteering options to three different nonprofit organizations in your area: Your first option is to spend 3-5 hours once a week helping a local community center care for its flower garden, fresh herb greenhouse, and wildlife sanctuary. Your second option is to spend Tuesday and Thursday evenings bathing, petting, and reading storybooks to all the dogs and cats at a nonprofit rescue shelter. Your third option is to spend 5 hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at an inner-city homeless shelter and rehabilitation center for men who have been recently released from prison.

This where the conflict begins. Deep inside, you know that volunteering at the men's shelter is, in your opinion, the most valuable kind of work you can do. Human beings require more attention than plants and pets. Humans beings need to be kind to each other, and so, you may want to volunteer at the shelter.

The problem is certainly not that nobody wants to volunteer at homeless shelters. I consider myself an optimist, and I still think that the majority of people living in the United States wish to care for and support each other. The true problem is that even when a good-minded, empathetic, caring person wants to offer their kindness to the homeless, there are layers upon layers of illusions, false impressions, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and (most importantly), miscommunications which prevent them from doing so. What must truly be addressed is not how much attention is being paid to homelessness, but how attention is paid. There are many kinds of layers of illusion; the majority of them are certainly racial illusion. A vast number are economic. Others, however, are emotional. A lot are just flat-out moral as well.

The growing epidemic of homelessness, as an affliction, is the product of political injustice, racist systems, and greed. But the homeless lifestyle itself, however, is not political in nature. Homeless people are not statistics in a study, neither are they variables in a social equation. Homelessness is a daily struggle for a human life, and those who are homeless suffer. They are as emotional and as sentient as the well-off office workers who pelt them with quarters as though they're fountains.

Understanding homelessness is especially hard for people on the polar opposite side of the social/economic spectrum from the homeless. It is somehow harder for a wealthy and educated person to understand homelessness than it is for someone from lower-class origins to do so. As I said before, I genuinely believe that the vast majority of people on this Earth have the moral initiative to help those less fortunate - but this initiative is excessively overridden by the reflexive tendency most people have to compare and juxtapose themselves. This act of reflexive juxtaposition is what scares most people away from homeless shelters.

Call it what you want - "juxtaposition" is not the only word one can use to describe this feeling. Some people might call themselves "overqualified." From a political perspective, some have referred to it as "white guilt." Regardless of what you call it, it is reflexive. Homeless people, just upon sight, are registered with labels and false truths. The visceral, instinctive reaction to a homeless person is "Look forward, walk firm, and don't make eye contact." This is what needs to change.

In western society, people who grow up privileged - with parents, shelter, an education, and relationships - are subconsciously taught, unintentionally encouraged, and silently conditioned by the people around them to treat the homeless with, above all else, pity. The etiquette of reacting to a homeless person suggests something of a "passive melancholy." Like I mentioned before, under this mannerism of avoidant sorrow, homelessness is not a condition of life. It is a political symbol. The stumbling beggar in the subway and the raggedy busker on the street corner are effectively dehumanized by default; as long as they are evidently homeless, their role in the social dynamic of these public places is automatically different from yours and mine. The status of homelessness completely nullifies - no, prevents - a person's worthiness and rightful entitlement to human attribution, and without mercy, they are turned into something which is not human: a figure which is nothing but a representation of itself.

After years of riding the bus and subway, I have become aware of several different categories in which the people around me fit; I see the day laborers, who are categorized by being older men, clad in paint-stained construction pants, functioning in close-knit groups of six or seven. I see the government employees, who are categorized by the loudness of their gazes of exhaustion, directionless and unfixed, garbed in outdated albeit notably well-fitted suits, bland floral blouses, sky-blue button downs, the incredible pant suits, and khakis, and khakis, and khakis. I see the college-aged summertime interns running coffee for politicians who never remember their names, and they, too, are categorized; specifically by their calculated movements, blatantly artificial exteriors, and the endearing aura of simultaneous youthful naivety and capitalistic millennial-themed ambition (they also act like they know where they're going, when really, they don't, but they never stop to ask for directions). I see the mothers, the trust-fund white kids from Gonzaga, the beatniks from Howard, the Reagan-bound luggage-bearing vagabonds, the punks, the academics, the racists, the anarchists, the activists, the drunks, the wandering, the sleeping, and of course, the emblematic tourists in their MAGA hats, graphic tees, and jorts.

What kind of a response is demanded of those who choose to protect the weak? How are the wounded addressed by the healers? How should I talk to someone who suffers? The photographers, the journalists, and the volunteers cannot hope to rile a revolution alone. Neither can the teachers hope to raise a generation freed from toxicity alone, nor can the young politicians on the Hill hope to deliver their country to safety and stability alone. The problem of homelessness can be addressed, as can it be confronted, observed, studied, and journalized. Don't get me wrong, though - this type of action is deeply important: The awareness of a problem creates an opportunity for its solution. But the raising of awareness is not enough. The confrontation of our reality is not enough. To take the first step beyond awareness is to give attention to those who are in need of it; to attend to the weak and the wounded, and to act for their protection and their healing. In the words of the French revolutionary Simone Weil: "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."


Song suggestion: LCD Soundsystem - American Dream

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