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The Effect of Music on Human Health and Brain Growth

Updated on May 8, 2017
SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

I have been a College teacher and a journalist. As a freelance content writer, I research the subject to write without prejudice and malice.

Stringed percussion instruments
Stringed percussion instruments | Source

Introduction

According to Oxford dictionary, music means the instrumental or vocal sounds or both combined in such a way to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression.

Music is an art, entertainment, pleasure, meditation and a medicine for the soul and the body. All the cultures and the people have universal responses to it.

But too loud or too jarring a music distracts and is not beneficial as it competes for attention.

The noise and disharmony cause diseases. The healing effects of music on human beings is being explored. The effect of sound on proteins provides new insight into the health of plants and human beings.

The increased yield and the improved vitality of the plant ingredients by music are very beneficial human consumption.

Brain

Like few other activities, the music involves the use of the whole brain. It improves memory, attention, physical coordination and mental development. The classical music stimulates the regeneration of brain cells.

Certain music improves the mood, intelligence, motivation and concentration. It also improves the quality of life and aids in physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. It helps in the treatment of autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain, emotional trauma, mental disorders, and depression. Music decreases anxiety, anger, stress, and frustration.

A Lady Playing the Tanpura
A Lady Playing the Tanpura | Source

Historical References

Today the music is just an audio pleasure, but earlier it was reckoned as a powerful force. The ancient people considered it a form of communication affecting the emotions without words and thought.

The great masters of ancient India, China, Greece, and Rome used music and sound to improve human health. Plato, Cicero, and Seneca wanted the state to ban certain harmful music which may affect the behavior of society.

The philosophers like Confucius, Pythagoras, Democritus, Aristotle, and Galen believed that the music had both positive and negative effects on human health.

The traditional Indian and Chinese medicines mention that certain instruments/sounds have beneficial effects on specific organs.

Music for Heart and Kidneys

The Effect of Music on Heart Surgery

Music has therapeutic properties. The patients who listened to music during and after open heart surgery recovered soon.

The researchers at Tokyo University in Japan performed heart surgery on a group of male mice to study the effects of different types of music on their recovery. The mice were exposed to Verdi’s music, Mozart sonatas and the songs of an Irish singer En-ya. In first two cases, the mice lived twenty days longer than those without music or with single frequency tone or of the third group. The immune system of control group rejected the foreign tissues.

Effects of music and sound on human health

Music is not just a harmless background noise created by musical instruments. The modern scientific research confirms the opinion of ancient philosophers that music and sound have both harmful and beneficial effects on people, plants, and animals.

Music Increases the Productivity of Beasts

British farmer Steve Led sham was surprised when his chickens started laying eight eggs a week instead of the usual four. This increase seemed to coincide with the building of a new barn where Weber's music was being played to entertain the workers. This music relaxed the birds and increased egg production.

The cows produced more milk when they listened to calming music. Researchers at the University of Leicester exposed Frisian cattle to different types of music for twelve hours a day for 60 days. The slow music like the Pastoral Symphony of Beethoven and the Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel’s increased the milk production by about 3%.

The winning music in a contest run by the British Columbia Dairy Association was the lyric-less tunes of “A Moo Down Milk Lane” by Tzu-Deng Jerry D.

Music Increases the milk yield of cows

Music Boosts the Immune System

An emotional response of the secretion of immune-boosting hormones is induced by certain music. Music decreases the stress-related hormone cortisol, the increased levels of which weaken the immune system. Hence the chances of illness get reduced.

Music Affects the Cortisol Levels

The stress hormones namely cortisol and adrenaline are secreted by the adrenal glands in response to Adrenocorticotropic hormone or ACTH. The ACTH, composed of 39 amino acids is the primary stimulation for the production for of adrenal cortisol. It is synthesized by the pituitary in the hypothalamus in the brain in response to corticotropin-releasing hormone.

High-intensity exercises plus energizing music of fast tempo increase the cortisol levels, while the slow, quiet, calm and classical music does the opposite. The people are likely to respond to music they like, rather than to specific frequencies without knowing which music increases or decreases the cortisol levels.

The blood cortisol levels of those with imminent surgery get reduced by 50% with the calming music, jointly chosen by the patient and music therapist.

The music aids untrained runners to produce higher levels of cortisol. The tunes of brass bands before and during the games whip the passions of players and spectators. Prolonged exposure to fast music like rock or heavy metal may induce addictive cortisol levels like coffee.

Music relaxes even the newborns and it could be played during routine works. It relaxes the tense muscles and gives energy during exercising, bathing, meditation, and yoga.

Dendrite patern
Dendrite patern | Source

What is Dendrite

The word dendrite has come from dendron which means a tree in Greek. These branched projections of neurons propagate the electro-chemical stimulation received from other neural cells to the cell body, or from soma of the neuron, from which the dendrites project.

Different inputs like lifestyle, stress and environment affect and continuously reshape the branching pattern of dendrites.

Proper growth and branching of dendrites is crucial for the functioning of the nervous system as these are the connections to other nerve cells.

The defects in dendrite growth cause severe neuro- developmental disorders like mental retardation etc.

Rock Music Harmed Dendrite Patterns

The ability of mice to navigate a food maze was tested by continuously playing the music at low volumes to eliminate behavioral changes.

Those subjected to either silence or Strauss waltzes had no problem in the maze with a little advantage for the latter. Those exposed to voodoo drumming performed worse and finally became cannibalistic, hyperactive, aggressive and even confused to complete the maze.

The highly abnormal neuronal growth patterns with excessive dendrite branches growing out in all directions and having few connections with other neurons were found in the hippocampus region of the brains of these mice. This region acts in learning and memory formation.

Due to an increase in dendrite branching, the messenger RNA involved in memory formation too increased. It meant that the brain tried to analyze the sound stimulus, but failed.

Zen relaxation - Relaxing Music - Ayurveda, Qigong, Tai-Chi, Yoga, Reiki, SPA

Baroque Music Increases Language Learning

Bulgarian psychologist George Lozanov found that backgroud Baroque instrumental music of Handel and J.S. Bach greatly increased the learning and memory retention during the teaching foreign language.

The Optimun Frequency for Relaxation

Alfred Tomatis, the French otologist confirmed that the benefits of Baroque and classical compositions as fond by Retallack for plants applied on humans too.

The stringed instruments like violin, viola, and cello, promoted EEG or brainwave patterns associated with relaxing the muscle tension and calmness.

The frequency range from 5000 to 8000 Hz promoted alpha-band brainwaves the fastest.

A Beautiful Chinese Music for HEALTH QIGONG early morning

Health Effects of Indian and Chinese Classical Music

According to Indian Ayurveda and the Chinese system of traditional medicines, the music supplements treatments and gives emotional and mental strength during illnesses. The health and illness are referred to as harmony and disharmony respectively.

Certain musical compositions have been fond of being beneficial for specific illness and disharmony. But the effects of specific music are different for different people. The music may alleviate the depression or illness, or it may be ineffective due to the dissimilar liking for music, personality or health differences and the context of listening etc.

The Chinese system assigns the characteristics like rate, width, strength, rhythm, regularity, elasticity, profile etc. to the pulse. These qualities are closely related to mind and emotions and cause changes in the physical, digestive and nervous system. The music has been found to affect the pulse.

Ayurveda mentions the effects of different sounds on the different chakras (physical levels) as follows.

1. The higher frequencies affect the head region.

2. The lower frequencies affect the base of the spine and lower abdomen.

3. The intermediate frequencies affect the chest and neck.

This could be verified personally by listening to a drum with low frequency and a violin which among all instruments has the high frequency above 5000 Hz.

Most people find distinct physical sensation especially at the top of their heads with the higher violin notes. The deep bass notes are felt in the lower half or over the whole body.

Every instrument can affect one or all emotions. The great composers achieve different effects by sound variations in musical content, key signatures, tempo, rhythm, loudness, melody, technique etc.

Five traditional elements

Traditional elements
Emotions
Organs
Corresponding sounds, and musical instruments
Fire
Joy/mania/laughter
Heart/Small Intestine,
Stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello, etc.).
Earth
Worry/melancholy
Spleen/Stomach
Song, human voice
Water
Fear/terror/groaning
Kidneys/Urinary Bladder
Percussion and percussive activated instruments (drums, piano)
Metal (Air)
Grief/sadness/weeping
Lungs/Large Intestine
Brass instruments (trumpet, French horn)
Wood
Anger/irritability/shouting
Liver/Gall Bladder
Woodwinds (clarinet, oboe, flute)

The Music with 60 beats per minute is very effective, as it is close to the relaxed pulse rate

The sound stimulates stress-induced genes to increase the level of transcription.

What is Gandharave Veda

The ancient Indian literature is known as Vedic literature. It encompasses all realms of life, both temporal or secular and sacred or religious. Most of the sacred literature in India consider Vedas as the source from which they have drawn inspiration from. The four Vedas are,

1. Rigveda

2. Yajurveda

3. Atharvaveda

4. Samveda

There are the following four secondary texts or Upavedas related to the Vedas respectively.

1. Ayurveda (It is the text on living, healing, and herbal medicines)

2. Dhanurveda (It is the text on statecraft, martial art, and war)

3. SthapatyaVeda (It is the text on architecture, sculpture, and art)

4. Gandharva Veda (It is the text on all art forms including music, dance, and poetry)

Gandharva Veda refers to Gandharvas as singers in the court of Gods with superb musical skills. In the absence of written accounts, the oral tradition has preserved the Vedas and the ancient music in its completeness.

The ancient sages discovered the intrinsic spirit of the frequencies of nature within their consciousness and reflected it through music. These sounds match with the basic rhythms and melodies of nature and create balance and harmony in environment and health.

This ancient classical music is used in Ayurveda, where the components of rags or melodies and layas or rhythms are used to rectify the imbalances or doshas. Certain melodies or Ragas could induce the plant to blossom.

In meditation, it helps to transcend to the innermost consciousness.

It finds an association of different sounds with different species and different natural phenomenon. It says that every environment is composed of sound vibrations which resonate with other sounds.

Traditional Indian Raga

Gandharva Veda Music and Brain

It increases total brain functioning, as the scientific studies also prove the influence of this music on the areas of consciousness, behavior, and physiology. By integrating the brain functions it produces a state of relaxation and promotes the experience of bliss.

It decreases tension, irritability, and lethargy. The increased mental activity leads to an experience of finer states of awareness.

Melody for Compassion (Raga Gurjari Todi) Played between 7 to - 10 AM for 60 minutes

How to Listen to Gandharva Veda Music

There are certain rules to practice music to heal the body and soul. The different Ragas are played at their appropriate time based on three-hour periods called Praharas which correspond to the changing frequencies of Nature throughout the day.

A particular melody at night brings harmony between body, nature, and soul, while it produces negative effects at other time. These melodies at performed at a proper time of the day featuring various instruments such as the sitar, flute etc.

Listen to the music in a relaxed sitting position or lying down with closed eyes. The ragas are ideal for relaxation in the evening to induce sleep, or to take a break from work. One can listen to it anywhere to get relaxed and recharged.

Even in the absence of listener, play the music for 24 hours a day at home or workplace to generate peace in the entire atmosphere.

Benefits of Gandharva Veda

Ayurveda treats the symptoms and takes into consideration every aspect of the person; body, mind, and soul. It has different methods to restore the body by balancing all the five senses. The massage works through the sense of touch; food, spices, and herbs restore the sense of taste; aroma oils influence the sense of smell; watching natural beauties satisfy the sense of sight, and Gandharva Veda music harmonizes the physiology by the sense of hearing.

This music can change pulse rate, blood circulation, blood pressure, metabolism, and respiration. So it is being used as a treatment to alleviate and decrease the need for pain medication and anesthesia.

It promotes balance, inner peace, better health and neutralizes stress when played at home or at the workplace. It creates harmony within discordant things whether animate or inanimate.

The benefits do not depend upon the personal taste or musical background. It is for all lands, all times and all men.

It goes beyond physical relaxation and attunes the mind and body with the cycles of Nature. It uses the sounds of nature to promotes happiness and peace when played at certain time for certain duration. The particular quality or Rasa of each Raga or melody have different characteristics like courage, self-confidence, wisdom and happiness.

Melody for Greater Energy (Raga Vrindavani Saranga) This melody can be played between 10 AM to 1 PM for 60 minutes

Proofs of the Effects of Gandhava Veda Music

The Vedic music affects the consciousness, behavior, physiology, and environment. The following studies scientifically prove its authenticity to influence the physical and mental health of the individual.

1. The researchers in the US analyzed the electric potential energy of the brain during the listening of Vedic music and found that the frequencies between the range of 4–8 increased.

2. Another study in the US too confirmed that the music balanced physiology decreased tension and irritability, caused less lethargy and increased the activity of the brain.

3. In the early 1950’s, an Indian Botanist Dr. T. C. N. Singh proved the effects of sounds on the metabolism of plant cells. He found that the plant protoplasm moved faster under sound effects. He proved that the Gandharva Veda music affects the growth, flowering, fruiting, and seed-yields of plants. The Charukesi Raga increased the crop yield from 25% to 60%; and increased the chromosome count of certain species of water plants.

4. The Sound and Music of Plants (De Vorss and Company, 1973) documented the research that the monotonous rock music played for several hours destroyed the plants. The Western classical music had mixed effects, while the plants flourished in Gandharva Veda music.

5. The Secret Life of Plants (Harper and Row, 1989) also documented the research that the plants close to the source of the sound of Gandharva Veda music virtually embraced the loudspeaker, while they moved away from the source of hard-rock music.

Raga Charukeshi increased the paddy yield by 25% to 60%

The Heart Dances with Music

The American Society of Hypertension has confirmed that the 30 minutes listening to classical, Celtic or raga music every day significantly reduce high blood pressure.

Relaxes Heart and Breathing

The researchers in England monitored the breathing, heart beats, and blood pressure after six types of music like rap, pop, classical etc. with random two-minute pauses. The lively music increased the heart and breathing rates, which slowed down with slow music and became normal during the pauses. The personal liking did not matter. Not the style, but the tempo and pace caused the greatest effect on relaxation.

Promotes Post-Stroke Recovery

A daily dose of favorite music like pop, classical, jazz etc. speeds up the recovery from strokes. The melodic intonation therapy of speaking in a musical manner promotes recovery from aphasia of prolonged stroke patients.

Mozart's music (Sonata for Two Pianos, K.448) reducees total seizure activity and recurence in epileptic patients by 65%, when compared with silence.

Music Improves Memory

The simultaneous action of the left and right brain maximizes learning and retention of information. The information being studied activates the left brain, while the music activates the right brain.

Mozart's music and baroque music, with a 60 beats per minute beat pattern, activates both sides of the brain in unison.

The playing of an instrument or singing helps the brain to process more information. The memory or information learned through particular songs could be recalled by mentally playing those songs.

Music training is more beneficial than listening. The children learning music have a better memory than others. The music devoid of the vocal element is more helpful as the words divert the attention.

In Finland, the verbal memory and attention improved by listening to music for 2-3 hours a day. The musical keyboard training increased the math reasoning ability of infants. The classical music improved visual attention and aided the children suffering from delayed development, by increasing the synchronization of hands and eyes.

Music and Brain

The playing and listening to music have positive effects on the brain. It makes one happier and productive at all stages of life and could delay the aging of the brain.

Listening to music after stroke not only promotes behavioral recovery but also induces fine-grained neuro-anatomical changes in brain recovery.

Music activates several regions of the brain, including auditory, motor, limb and emotions. The emotional and cognitive benefits of music are due to these activations.

A headache and Migraine

Music can help migraine and chronic headache sufferers reduce the intensity, frequency, and duration of the headaches.

Cognition, Intelligence, Learning, and IQ

The music makes one smarter and the listening or playing an instrument helps in better learning. The classical music including Mozart increases the performance in reasoning tests. But the new findings prove that any personally enjoyable music has similar effects.

Concentration and Attention

Listening to the relaxing classical music improves the duration and intensity of concentration in all age groups and ability levels. The choice of music may vary from person to person.

Enhances Higher Brain Functions

Music is beneficial for the children with attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder and benefits in mathematics tests. It increases emotional intelligence and helps to recall the autobiographical or episodic information. It alleviates depression, anxiety, and agitation by improving brain functions.


Boosts Dopamine and Oxytocin

The music causes measurable changes in certain neurotransmitters and stimulates the formation of brain chemicals. It increases the neurotransmitter dopamine, a motivation molecule of pleasure which is also derived from eating chocolate, orgasm etc.

The formation of brain hormone oxytocin gets stimulated by playing group music and enjoying live musical concerts. This trust or moral hormone helps in trusting and forms a bond with others. It makes the people more generous and trustworthy.

Alzheimer’s disease

The patients in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease lose their ability to have interactive conversations and ultimately stop speaking completely. The familiar music of youthful days reawakens and lights them up. They even start singing and the musical memories seem to outweigh other memories.

Musicians Have Better Brains

Music activates the whole brain. The brain scans prove that the brains of professional musicians are more symmetrical. The parts responsible for motor control, auditory processing, and spatial coordination are larger and different from others.

Even the broad band of nerve fibers that enables the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate with each other is also larger.

Zen12 Meditation gives mental clarity, focus and calm in 12 minutes a day

List of Music for Brain

One can get the music DVD on Netflix or buy it on Amazon.

The free music streaming service Spotify is a great place to listen to music for better mood, learning, or concentration. It has a decent collection of the songs for the brain.

The Zen12 Meditation in mood genre has several sub-genres like happy, psyched, melancholic etc. There are playlists for acoustic concentration, noise, Zen focus, deep focus, intense studying and natural concentration.

The Johns Hopkins School of Education has the top music for focus, concentration, creativity, reflection and active learning.

The music of Handel, Haydn and Mozart is also beneficial.

Melody for Restful Sleep (Raga Darbari-Kanhra) played at night for about 60 minutes

Other Health Benefits of Music

The several other benefits of music are as follows.

Postpartum Health

Music decreases the post-natal nervousness and pain, reduces the chances of depression during the postpartum period and increases the childbirth satisfaction.

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a ringing sound when no external sound is present. But music prevents tinnitus from becoming a chronic condition when used in early stages.

Music improves Physical and Athletic Performance

The stimulating music helps to move, walk and dance. It increases the athletic performance and helps in the performance of exercises by reducing the feeling of fatigue and psychologically increasing the response of arousal and relaxation.

The rhythms of music move the body and restore the physical functions. It reduces the muscle tension and improves the body coordination. It can also help during the disability of movement.

Fatigue fighter

The cheerful music gives extra energy and could reduce the fatigue. But too much pop and hard rock leave one more frazzled than energized. Change the music to classical, pop, jazz etc. to find the most beneficial one.

Improves Efficiency

Several people listen to music while working as it helps to perform better and increase productivity. The journal of Neuroscience of Behavior and Physiology confirms that the ability to recognize visual images, including letters and numbers becomes faster with rock or classical music.

Insomnia

The soft classical music or Bach calms the thoughts and relaxes the muscles and senses to induce sleep. Listening to music for half an hour provides sound sleep as it reduces blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.

Depression and Blues

The high beats of music reduce the negative emotions and distract the attention from stress. It improves the mood, heals the soul and lifts the spirits due to psychotherapeutic benefits. The cheerful tones of Mozart, Vivaldi, bluegrass, Klezmer, Salsa, reggae, etc. are beneficial in blues. According to the British Journal of Advanced Nursing, the music reduces depression by 25%.

Anti-anxiety

Music is best for preoperative anxiety and the anxiety related to dental procedures. It reduces post-surgical stress and pain and decreased the symptoms of depression in elderly people.

Mood

The favorite and upbeat music boosts the mood and increases the work efficiency by giving happiness. The workers work fast and come up with novel ideas than those having no control over the choice of music. It makes us more optimistic, joyful, friendly and relaxed.

Pain relief

The music can reduce the sensation and distress of chronic and postoperative pain. According to the British Journal of Advanced Nursing, the music reduces the pain of osteoarthritis, disc problems and rheumatoid arthritis by 21% and supplements the use of anesthesia during surgery.

The music affects the pain by creating a revulsive effect or gives a sense of control or induces the body to release endorphin which neutralizes pain or by decelerating the breathing and heartbeat.

Sad music has its benefits too

If you are going through a tough time, listening to sad music is cathartic.

It can help you get in touch with your emotions to help you heal.

Have you ever felt the shivering effects of Music?

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Music for Heart and Kidney

The stringed instruments intensely affect the heart. The sound quality of the Kidneys is that of groaning and cellos groan to induce ecstasy. The sound of violin stimulates the head region. Together they create shivering effect extending from the base of the spine to the top of the head.

This physical sensation in which the Kidneys and Heart communicate could be felt by listening to the music of Schubert's Quintet. The percussive-like sounds affect the Kidneys in lower frequencies. The shivers going up the spine reduces the sense of internal conflict and relieve the burden. The sensations over legs and lower torso also appears. The overall effect is energizing, awakening and sharpening of the senses.

Play the recording at a comfortable and realistic volume to avoid the distortion effects of the audio system. Turn off the room lights and lie down on a comfortable surface while listening.

In groups, it is advisable that everyone close their eyes to avoid looking at others to see their reactions.

String Quintet in C major (D 956) by Franz Schubert

Distortion in Indian Music

The Indian music has been influenced by a tonal system quite different from its own original one. This foreign or western tonal system influenced Indian music and musicians through western instruments like the harmonium. These influences are strongly distorting and polluting the Indian music.

Technical problems in Sound Reproduction

The music fails to give desired results because of the poor quality of playback systems. The degradation in audio signal and vibrancy occurs in the form of harmonic distortion and frequency variation. The high-frequency sounds found crucial to stimulate the plants and people are lost in several playback systems.

The sensation of listening to string instruments vanishes due to the poor reproduction of high frequencies.

A new distortion called jitters appears due to minor errors in the timings of the digital clock that drives the component of digital-to-analog-conversion in a CD player. When jitters exceed 200 picoseconds, it becomes audible as a weird, persistent, whistling or crackling sound. The jitters are unacceptable in music therapy.

The trained musicians cannot tolerate any CD recordings for more than a few minutes.

Future Research

The researchers confirm the beliefs of ancient physicians and philosophers that the music has physiological and psychological effects.

But more clinical research into the qualities, nature and the effects of music on different people is needed. The quality of sound reproduction equipment or digitally generated jitters need further explorations. Besides classical or rock, other musical compositions should also be found.

The Chinese and Indian systems could help in classifying the types of music beneficial for health.

Disclaimer

This article provides information about the effects of music on health. It is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of diseases. Consult a trained health professional for any serious acute or chronic health concern.

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    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image
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      Sanjay Sharma 7 days ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks, FemaleAdda Social for the visit and you are right in yours contention.

    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image
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      Sanjay Sharma 4 months ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks FemaleAdda Social for the visit and the comment. I completely agree with your views.

    • FemaleAdda Social profile image

      FemaleAdda 4 months ago

      Music gives me so much relaxation of your heart and mind. I always listen music when i feel stress and tired.

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