It has long been understood that music has influence over the mind. For years, interrogators at Guantanamo used painfully loud music on prisoners. US fighter pilots would listen to heavy metal music to get them pumped up for bombing raids. Music has a physical effect on the body. Of course, this is nothing new; primitive tribes have used rhythmic beats through the ages to incite their warriors. That incessant rhythm, over and over, it gets their heart rate going, their body temperature can rise, and it literally gets the juices flowing.”
Within the last decade, new technologies have shown the interaction between music and the physical brain. The making and processing of music involves structures, networks, and pathways throughout the brain. A Stanford research team showed that music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory.
At one time, it was believed that there was little or no growth of brain cells after age 30. There are days when I feel this is true and everything I needed to know about life I learned in kindergarten. But recent studies of music and the brain have disproven this theory. The brain is a moldable organ and music has the power to shape the brain’s development into later life. Those of us who frequently play a musical instrument are less likely to develop dementia compared to those who do not, revealing that music not only to trains the brain, but also to protect cognitive functioning.
Music has also long been used in rehabilitative treatments for impairments in motor function, language, cognition, sensory processing, and emotional disturbances resulting from brain injuries. It has been used successfully on patients with strokes, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, or traumatic brain injuries.
I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said if you put an idea to music, people can learn it and remember it for the rest of their lives. I know back when I was in school if there was something I had to memorize in history class, I would replace the lyrics of my favorite songs with the text I was to learn. Try the Gettysburg address to Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I have been a musician for over 30 years and have played more than my fair share of live performances. I know first-hand the power music has over the human condition. It can incite a riot, mend a broken heart or change your mood. It stimulates your mind and keeps your senses sharp. Music is food for the soul and medicine for the brain.