You don't have to be a medical specialist to understand the effects of music on the brain and a few of its many functions. Studies demonstrate that music can transition the mind between moods, fight off depression, improve blood flow, and even decrease levels of stress-related hormones like cortisol to ease pain in recovering patients. During a 20-minute trial in Wisconsin, stress was reduced in 45 heart attack patients using music, the results were described as, “astounding” by health experts and cardio physicians.
Although patients were still hospitalized, they all became clinically stable with the addition of music to treatment. With the experiment expressing classical music as a constant, each patient various songs and musicians. For the duration of the 20-minute trial, doctors were quickly able to document a drop in the heart rates, breathing rates, and hearts' oxygen demands of each patient.
These improvements lasted hours after the music had been stopped. Upon further study of the psychology of each patient, testing also demonstrated lower levels of anxiety, leaving patients feeling settled and more at ease. As music continues to take many forms, it can also be agitating and unsettling on the mind. “Silence can be better than random listening,” says Joanne Loewy, a director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music & Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York. “Data shows that putting on any old music can induce a stress response.” The heart's ability to replicate the beats per minute (bpm) of any song with its tempo, holds full responsibility for the seesawing effects of music on stress levels. A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.
Experiments showing that faster tempo music of around 120-130 beats per minute enticed anxiety, increases in blood pressure, as well as increases in heart rate. While also documenting slow tempo music of 50-60 beats per minute has the opposite effect on the body. This research suggests that music has both health benefits and deficits depending on its genre. Genres such as Techno, Dubstep, and Rock demonstrated, having bpm above 150, all increase the heart rate. While other genres such as Classical and R&B, all had soothing effects on the heart with bpm less than or equal to 100.
Along with inducing stress, the wrong music can promote rumination or other unhelpful mental states. A 2015 study in Finland found that music can bolster negative emotions like anger, aggression, or sadness. Further stated by Daniel Levitin, “The tempo of the music a person selects can modulate our heart rates as well as the activity of our brain’s neural networks.” Levitin, a professor of psychology who researches the cognitive neuroscience of music at McGill University in Canada, explains that tracks with a slow tempo, gradual chord progressions, and drawn-out notes tend to be calming, while chaotic and up-tempo music tends to have the opposite effects.
With the brain not having a single region for music interpretation, music activates nearly every region of the brain mapped so far. Music’s universality and power to effects a person's health in different ways are one of life's many health care secrets. Moreover, in the words of Alan Turry, director of the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy at New York University, “Music is a way to bypass our rational side and to get in touch with the emotional life we often keep hidden. If people are having trouble, there’s usually a way that music can help. So, if you’re looking for something to de-stress, pump yourself up, or otherwise shift your mental or emotional state, create a Playlist!”
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