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Music and How It Benefits Our Health Tool

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Mental health plays an important part in one’s life and it can be difficult to help once it is in an unhealthy state for the person with the mental health. Mental health determines the way one feels emotionally and psychologically. Music has been a popular form of mental therapy which has proven to help reduce stress, improve memory, improve cognition, lessen anxiety, provide comfort, increasing endurance and easing pain. In fact, there have been studies that demonstrate success in helping children with autism spectrum disorders and soothing premature babies.

The brain functions in many different ways and yet there is no specific region that music focuses on so, it reaches many areas in the brain for a person. According to “Music and the Brain: What Happens When You’re Listening to Music”, the frontal, temporal, Broca’s Area, Wernicke’s Area, occipital lobe, cerebellum, nucleus accumbens, amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, corpus callosum, and putamen interact to music in their own ways. This is important because it demonstrates music is engaging with almost all regions of the brain. Those with mental disorders and disabilities turn to music therapy because it helps these regions of the brain which can in some ways make their symptoms more manageable.

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Music therapy is 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 neurological disorders. According to the American Music Therapy association, “Children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly with mental health needs, developmental and learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease and other aging related conditions, substance abuse problems, brain injuries, physical disabilities, and acute and chronic pain, including mothers in labor” (musictherapy.org). Music therapists are required to spend at least 1200 hours in clinical training, a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from one of AMTA’s 72 approved colleges and universities, and must hold an MT-BC credential. According to “Being A Music Therapist: What You Really Do”, “1 of the main responsibilities as a music therapist is to engage clients in music experiences to identify client responses to different styles of music, types of musical experiences, such as improvising or listening, or elements of music, such as tempo or harmony” (owlguru.com). Music therapy is a free space for the client or patient and allows them to be expressive through their music and gives them a sense of relief and puts their mind at ease. The goal of music therapy is to help the client strengthen their functioning levels with the assistance of freeing their musical, communicative, and social abilities.

Music therapy for premature babies may consist of mothers singing to their babies and voice recordings of the mother’s voice. The sounds of the mother can help the baby stabilize their heart rate and breathing and cause the baby to fsleep. In the article, “Music Therapy Helps Preemie Babies Thrive”, Lucija Belenninik, a postdoctoral researcher at the Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Center, in Bergen, Norway mentions, “ Formal music therapy is being offered in a growing number of NICUs in the United States and several other countries, Bieleninik said. She suggested that parents of newborn preemies ask to speak to a music therapist if one is available”. Music therapists can teach the parent’s of the preemie baby which can be essential for at home circumstances. It can flourish the parenting which will allow the baby to maintain better health. Joanne Loewy, director of the Mount Sinai Health System’s Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine, in New York City, mentions, “Sing a simple lullaby at bedtime, holding your baby over your heart, skin to skin” (“Music Therapy Helps Preemie Babies Thrive”).

Musicians have bigger, well connected, and more sensitive brains due to the constant exercise of the brain. According to, “How Music Affects the Brain” , Musicians have larger corpus callosum which is the band of nerve fibers that transfers information between the two hemispheres of the brain. This increase in size indicates that the two sides of the musician’s brain are better at communicating with each other” (“How Music Affects the Brain”). If there is better communication within the brain it allows the person to adapt to situations much quicker than one that has a regular corpus callosum. The memory of the person enhances along with this as well for many musicians memorize sheet music and exercises. In the article, “Science Shows How Musicians Brains Are Different From Everybody Else’s”, Tom Barnes states,

“In fact, children with one to five years of musical training were able to remember 20% more vocabulary words read to them off a list than children without such training. That’s especially compelling because highly developed verbal memory skills have numerous applications in non-musical contexts, such as helping students learn and remember more content from speeches and lectures. Musicians who began their training as children have also been shown to learn new languages more quickly” (“Science Shows How Musicians Brains Are Different From Everybody Else’s”).

This proves that those who learn instruments at an early age are at an advantage for the data demonstrates a significant difference between someone who has and has not learned an instrument early on.

Autism is becoming a much more common spectrum disorder diagnosed over the years. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior. This causes the child to experience difficulties in social situations such as interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. Music therapy is commonly prescribed to those who have a tough time expressing these forms of interactions. Tuned In to Learning mentions, “ Music is at its core a structured way to present information. Melodic and rhythmic patterns give students with autism a way to organize auditory information and help memorize scripts, task sequences, and academic facts” (tunedintolearning.com). It allows one to be expressive in a creative form and motivates them to be consistently expressive. “By employing the use of music, the door is opened for one of many ways that parents and their autistic children can play together and have fun while they are doing it!” (How Can Music Be Used To Help Autistic People”)

Studies that have further proven that music can help reduce stress and anxiety, provide comfort, and ease pain. A New York study demonstrates how this affected surgical patients . According to “Music and Health”,

“Forty cataract patients with an average age of 74 volunteered for the trial. Half were randomly assigned to receive ordinary care; the others got the same care but also listened to music of their choice through headphones before, during, and immediately after the operations. Before surgery, the patients in both groups had similar blood pressures; a week before the operations, the average was 129/82 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The average blood pressure in both groups rose to 159/92 just before surgery, and in both groups, the average heart rate jumped by 17 beats per minute. But the patients surrounded by silence remained hypertensive throughout the operation, while the pressures of those who listened to music came down rapidly and stayed down into the recovery room, where the average reduction was an impressive 35 mm Hg systolic and 24 mm Hg diastolic. The listeners also reported that they felt calmer and better during the operation” (health.harvard.edu).

This study shows that music supplied some sort of comfort and allow the patient to feel more calm and at ease during the operation. “Music and Health” further mentions another study which resulted in some similarity in the case of a stroke.

“Sixty patients were enrolled in the study soon after they were hospitalized for major strokes. All received standard stroke care; in addition, a third of the patients were randomly assigned to listen to recorded music for at least one hour a day, another third listened to audiobooks, and the final group did not receive auditory stimulation. After three months, verbal memory improved 60% in the music listeners, as compared with 18% in the audiobook group and 29% in the patients who did not receive auditory stimulation. In addition, the music listeners’ ability to perform and control mental operations — a skill called focused attention — improved by 17%, while the other patients did not improve at all” (health.harvard.edu).

Genres of music can affect one’s mental health dramatically. For example, Dr. Suvi Saarikallio, co-author of the study and developer of the Music in Mood Regulation (MMR) test states, “Analysis showed that anxiety and neuroticism were higher in participants who tended to listen to sad or aggressive music to express negative feelings, particularly in males” (“How Music Listening Habits Affect Mental Health”). Therefore if one is in an angry mood, aggressive music will not benefit one’s mental health and rather allow it to fester. With women, studies show that mPFC activation due to music can result in more serious psychological conditions. For instance, “females who tended to listen to music to distract from negative feelings, however, there was increased activity in the mPFC…according to prof. Elvira Brattico, the senior author of the study, ‘These results show a link between music listening styles and mPFC activation, which could mean that certain listening styles have long-term effects on the brain” (“How Music Listening Habits Affect Mental Health”).

Sleeping disorders who listen to music before bedtime or even during bedtime tend to experience a boost in quality and quantity of sleep. “Sleep & Music” states, “Putting on some tunes can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less during the night, and feel more rested in the morning. Music can help sleepers of all ages, from toddlers through elderly, at naptime and nighttime alike” (“Sleep & Music”). The music style and genre would need to be appropriate for the situation. This happens due to the relaxing effect music can have on the brain which makes it easier for one to find comfort in bed. “Sleep & Music” further mentions, “While the reasons why music can help you sleep better aren’t clear, it may have to do with the relaxing effect that a good song can have, or the fact that music may trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain. Music can have real physical effects, too, by lowering your heart rate and slowing your breathing” (“Sleep & Music”).

Music improves exercise endurance which can be beneficial to many for it makes working out a little easier. According to “Music Improves Exercise Endurance” by Lucy Clark, Brunel University has confirmed that listening to music while you exercise could increase your endurance by 15%” (“Music Improves Exercise Endurance”). With that being said, the music would have to be appropriate of course. “Our findings reinforce the idea that upbeat music has a synergistic effect in terms of making you want to exercise longer and stick with a daily exercise routine. When doctors are recommending exercise, they might suggest listening to music too.” (“Music Improves Exercise Endurance”). It has been recommended that those who want to experience a real boost whether they are amateur or professional athletes, listening to a sound track can most definitely push a little further. Music tends to encourage and motivate people to keep going and pushing their workouts a little bit further, still depending on what type of music the person is listening to.

Music helps assist with memory which can be beneficial to those with dementia due to their mental illness. Many patients with dementia participate in music therapy which does not help them regain full memory but partial memories that are attached to certain songs and experiences they have attached with those songs. A program called Music and Memory goes around to many nursing homes, hospital facilities, and care organizations to help those that struggle with cognitive disorders and physical challenges. “Music and Memory Program around the clock; is the personalized music (iPod) project in the Memory Care Units. Music that is personally meaningful to residents has been found to evoke past memories, often helping the resident to feel calmer and more connected to other residents, staff, family and friends” (“Music and Memory in Dementia Care”). In the article, “5 Reasons Why Music Boosts Brain Activity”, neurologist, Oliver Sacks, further elaborates on the matter stating, “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” By pairing music with everyday activities, patients can develop a rhythm that helps them to recall the memory of that activity, improving cognitive ability over time”.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive mental deterioration that can occur in middle or old age, due to generalized degeneration of the brain. This can make it difficult to recall any sort of information. Music can engage particular regions of the brain that allow those with Alzheimer’s to remember certain memories. “Musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer’s disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease” (“Can Music Help Someone With Alzheimer’s?”). This allows easier communicative abilities, stress reduction, and emotional ease which can be very important to those experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Overstimulation can interfere with the music’s duties therefore it is best recommended to turn off or remove any other source of distractions. “No one says playing music will be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but it might make the symptoms more manageable, decrease the cost of care, and improve a patient’s quality of life” (Alzheimer’s: ‘Music may make symptoms more manageable’).

Most importantly, music makes a person happier. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. Musical pleasure is the dopamine taking action which creates a motivation and drive that makes listening enjoyable. Researchers have studied this by “orally administrated to each participant a dopamine precursor (levodopa, which increases dopaminergic availability), a dopamine antagonist (risperidone; to reduce dopaminergic signaling), and placebo (lactose; as a control)” (“Listening to the Music You Love Will Make Your Brain Release More Dopamine, Study Finds”). With the concluding results, the researchers state,“We cannot conclude that taking dopamine will increase your musical pleasure. What we can say is much more interesting: listening to the music you love will make your brain releases more dopamine, a crucial neurotransmitter for humans’ emotional and cognitive functioning” (“Listening to the Music You Love Will Make Your Brain Release More Dopamine, Study Finds”).

Overall, music has proven in many circumstances that it has the potential of benefitting one’s health in many minor and significant ways. Music can help reduce stress, improve memory, improve cognition, lessen anxiety, provide comfort, ease pain, and increase endurance when working out. It has also been a success for mental disorders such as dementia, autism spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. The impact music has on a person’s brain is often belittled yet holds the strongest significance to one’s mental health. Music does not have side effects such as most prescribed drugs from the doctors and can be found almost anywhere. Music can be made in the convenience of anywhere whether one is playing an instrument or singing a song. Music is proven to help with benefiting one’s health and is considered a very big help to a lot of those who suffer with mental health.

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