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The Many Benefits of Music

It has been documented that music improves mood, decreases pain and anxiety, and promotes opportunities for emotional expression. Research suggests that music can benefit our physical and mental health in many ways. Music therapy has been used by hospice and palliative care board-certified music therapists to enhance conventional treatment for a variety of illnesses and disease processes – from anxiety, depression and stress, to the management of pain and enhancement of functioning after degenerative neurologic disorders.

  • Heart Health. Research has shown that blood flows more easily when music is played. It can also reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels and increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood.


  • Mood elevation. Music can boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. This increased dopamine production helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. Music is processed directly by the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in mood and emotions. Listening to music releases endorphins in the brain. Endorphins give us a heightened feeling of excitement. In addition to feeling euphoric, endorphins quell anxiety, ease pain and stabilize the immune system. With high endorphin levels, we have fewer negative effects of stress.


  • Stress reduction. Research has found that listening to music can relieve stress by triggering biochemical stress reducers.


  • Calms down depression. When you’re feeling down in the dumps, music can help pick you up—very similar to exercise.


  • Memory stimulation. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia but music therapy has been shown to relieve some of its symptoms. Music therapy can relax an agitated patient, improve the mood and open communication in patients. Music and music training has been shown to benefit the aging brain.


  • New Evidence. Researchers now have evidence that the processing of music and language, specifically memorizing information, rely on some of the same brain systems. Evidence from research also suggests music we heard as teenagers has a significant emotional bind to our brain compared to music we listen to as adults--although music we listen to as adults has measurable value.  Musical nostalgia is a fun exercise for anyone, but is most impactful for people suffering from memory loss, including those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.  

  • According to a study published in The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease, music activates the brain, awakening regions including the salience, visual, executive, and the cerebellar networks and causing them to communicate. The research team concluded that personally meaningful music might aid attention, reward, and motivation and manage Alzheimer's symptoms. 


  • Pain management. By reducing stress levels and providing a strong competing stimulus to the pain signals that enter the brain, music therapy can assist in pain management.


  • Ease of pain. Music can noticeably reduce the perceived intensity of pain, especially in geriatric care, intensive care or palliative medicine.


  • Appetite reduction. Playing soft music in the background (and dimming the lights) during a meal can help people slow down while eating and ultimately consume less food in one sitting.



  • Increases workout endurance. Listening to those top workout tracks can boost physical performance and increase endurance during a tough exercise session. Turning up your tunes can also up the effort you exert during exercise. In one study, researchers found that cyclists worked harder and biked a further distance when listening to faster music as compared to music with a slower tempo. When the tempo slowed, so did their pedaling and their entire effect. Their heart rates fell and their mileage dropped. They reported not enjoying the music as much. On the other hand, when the tempo of the songs was ramped up by 10 percent, the men covered more miles in the same period of time, produced more power with each pedal stroke and increased their pedal cadences.


  • Running & Weight Lifting. For pace-based exercises like running or weight-lifting, music can help regulate rhythm and signal to the brain when the body should move. This signal helps us to use our energy more efficiently, so we’re not exhausting ourselves too soon.


  • Musical study.  Music and musical training have also been shown to protect the aging brain and keep it healthy.



Music and Children


Children are ready to begin making music earlier than you might realize. Just hearing music stimulates the mind, improves the mood, and brings people together.


A study at the University of California at Irvine demonstrated that young children who participated in music instruction showed dramatic enhancements in abstract reasoning skills.  Their research also discovered firing patterns that suggest that music may hold the key to higher brain function.


Research at McGill University in Montreal, Canada showed that grade school children who took music lessons scored higher on tests of general and spatial cognitive development—the abilities that form the basis for performance in math an engineering.


Children who perform music have been shown to get along better with classmates and have fewer discipline problems. More of them get into their preferred colleges as well.


Playing a musical instrument strengthens eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. And children who study an instrument learn a lot about discipline, dedication, and the rewards of hard work.


Listening to music fills a home with joy and adds an extra dimension to children’s lives. And people who make music enjoy these benefits many times over.      

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