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Music & Emotions: Can Music Really Make You a Happier Person?
How many times have you turned to music to lift yourself up in happy times or sought musical comfort in times of sadness?
Music affects us all. But it’s only recently that scientists are trying to explain and quantify how music affects us on an emotional level. Research into the connection between music and the mind has shown that listening to and playing music can change how our brains function and, in turn, our bodies.
Although music therapy is nothing new, it seems that its ability to heal the body and mind is just beginning to be understood. For years, doctors have advocated the use of listening and studying music to reduce anxiety, stress, and pain. Music is also recommended as a tool for positive changes in mood and emotions.
In 1966, Michael Debaki, the first surgeon to successfully implant an artificial heart, said: “Composing and playing music can help you express yourself, give pleasure to others, as well as make yourself happy. A growing number of published reports in medicine show that music has a healing effect on patients.”
Doctors believe that music therapy in hospitals and nursing homes not only improves people’s mood, but also speeds recovery. And medical professionals across the country are beginning to use new discoveries about music’s effects on the brain to treat patients.
In one study, researcher Michael Taut and his team found that stroke, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s disease victims who worked on music took larger, more balanced steps than those who did not.
Other researchers have found that the sound of drums can affect the human body. Suzanne Hasner, chair of the music therapy department at Berklee College of Music in Boston, cited a 2001 USA Today article that found that even people with dementia and head injuries retain their musical abilities.
In the article, researchers at the Mind-Body Health Center in Meadville, N.Y., published the results of an experiment in which 111 cancer patients played drums for 30 minutes a day. They found that many patients’ immune systems were strengthened and levels of cancer-fighting cells increased.
“We have this repetitive music in our long-term memory,” Hasner says. “It’s processed in the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain. It’s where you remember the music that was played at your wedding, the music of your first love, that first dance. Those things don’t go away even in people with advanced disease. It can be a window, a way to reach them. .”
The American Association for Music Therapy states that music therapy provides “emotional bonding with families and caregivers, relaxation for the whole family, and meaningful time spent together in a positive and creative way.”
Scientists are making progress in understanding why music should have the effect it does. In 2001, Drs Anne Blood and Robert Zatorre of McGill University in Montreal used positron emission tomography, or PET scans, to see if certain brain structures were stimulated by music.
In their study, Blood and Zatorre asked 10 musicians, five men and five women, to choose arousing music. PET scans were then performed while listening to four types of sound stimuli: selected music, other music, general noise, or quiet. Each sequence was repeated three times in random order.
When the subjects listened to “chilling” music, the PET revealed activity in the brain regions stimulated by food and sex, Blood said.
It is not clear why people have come to appreciate music on such a biological basis. Blood told the Associated Press at the time that the desire for food and sex helped the species survive, but “music didn’t evolve to survive.”
He also believes that music is good for our physical and mental health because it activates the parts of the brain that make us happy.
This is good news for surgical patients who are anxious about these procedures.
Zbigniew Kucharski, a Polish researcher at the Medical Academy in Warsaw, studied the effectiveness of acoustic therapy in combating fear in dental patients. Between October 2001 and May 2002, 38 dental patients aged 16 to 60 years were observed. Patients underwent various acoustic therapy interventions in which they received music through headphones and vibrations.
Dr. Kucharski found that patients who received 30 minutes of acoustic therapy before and after dental treatment experienced a fivefold reduction in negative feelings. For the group that only heard and felt the music before the operation, the fear was reduced by 1.6 times.
Fear scores did not change in the last group (control) that only received acoustic treatment during surgery.
A 1992 study found that listening to music and relaxation instructions were effective in reducing pain and anxiety in women undergoing painful gynecologic surgery. Other studies have also confirmed that music can reduce other “negative” emotions in humans, such as fear, distress, and depression.
Sherry Robb and a team of researchers published a report in the Journal of Music Therapy in 1992, concluding that music as a relaxation procedure (listening to music, deep breathing, and other exercises) effectively reduced anxiety in pediatric burn surgery patients.
“Music is an easy, non-threatening, non-invasive, and inexpensive tool to ease preoperative anxiety,” Esther Mock wrote in AORN Magazine in February 2003.
Until now, according to the same report, researchers do not know why music has a calming effect on many hospital patients. One school of thought suggests that music reduces stress because it relaxes patients and helps 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 fast heart rate listens to slow music, the heart rate slows down and synchronizes with the rhythm of the music.
Such results remain a mystery. Music’s amazing ability to influence and manipulate emotions and brains is undeniable, but still inexplicable.
In addition to brain activity, the effect of music on hormone levels in the human body can also be quantified, and there is clear evidence that music reduces cortisol levels in the body (related to excitement and stress) and increases melatonin levels. can induce sleep). It also accelerates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers.
But how can music evoke emotions in us? And why are these emotions so strong? The simple answer is that no one knows…yet. At present, we can quantify some of the emotional responses that music elicits, but we cannot explain them. But it’s okay. When I come into a room and turn on a lamp, I don’t need to understand electricity to benefit from the light, nor do I need to understand why music makes me feel better. Our Creator made us this way.
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