For most, music is a part of a person’s daily routine. Whether it's rap or hip-hop, alternative or folk, music floats through headphones and speakers across the world every day. Centuries ago, music was used to remember things and pass down stories. Scientists even found that structures in the brain responding to music came before those of language, according to Daniel Levitin, a researcher studying the neuroscience of music. Music, similarly, is learned like a language in that it is acquired through different stages of a person’s life. From birth, music is learned through different tones and pitches. Following this stage, between the ages of three and five, a child learns how to develop muscle coordination and then develops the ability to sing while playing an instrument.
Music also has the ability to enhance a person’s learning. It can help in language development by training the left side of the brain involved in processing speech. It can help decode sounds and words acquired through natural development. Music helps to develop multiple skill sets including the utilization of the eyes, ears, and muscles simultaneously. There is also a strong connection between music and visualization. For example, music can help a student visualize math problems, making them easier to understand. This processing of information is due to a person's spacial reasoning, which is the ability to visualize three-dimensional objects and draw conclusions from them. When listening to music, areas, such as the prefrontal and temporal regions, which are activated during work, similarly process music. This means that when a person listens to music while studying, it enhances the activation of spacial reasoning in the brain.
Sounds confusing, right? It doesn't have to be. The chart of the brain below shows areas including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, and their responses to music. Music targets these specific areas and affects them in multiple ways, including a person’s behavior and expression. Coinciding with these effects, music can help reduce stress, relieve anxiety, and promote motivation.
In a study on music and communication conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine, 17 participants with no musical training were asked to listen to four different symphonies. Each participant showed reactions to certain parts of the brain including attention, memory, planning, and movement. This study proves that music is not only beneficial to the brain, but it unites people from all around the world. The similar reactions to these symphonies emphasize Daniel Levitin’s point when he says, “There's this unifying force that comes from the music, and we don't get that from other things”.
We all know what it is like to stand in a crowd of hundreds of people at a concert and feel as though you are a part of something. Someone could be of a different race, from a different background, living in another part of the world, and still come together with another person and share something in common. Music is beautiful in that it brings people together and shows that we aren’t so different after all. So the next time you click on your iTunes or SoundCloud app, or buy a ticket to a J. Cole concert off of Live Nation, remember how important music is, and never stop listening.