Late last week, I asked the Yahoo! Answers community if “happy songs” improve their moods. Most of the responders wrote that, heck yeah, songs definitely help in getting them out of a funk. The real question is “why.” Is there a scientific connection behind music and mood?
I did some searches and discovered a 2003 article from WebMD. According to studies at Penn State University, all kinds of music improve moods. It doesn’t matter if you’re listening to rock and roll, classical, or (gasp) Celine Dion–any type of tune helped those in the study feel more “optimistic, joyful, friendly, relaxed, and calm.”
And it’s not just a person’s mood that music can affect. U.S. News and World Report writes that some neurologists prescribe music for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. One neurologist says that, “‘music therapy can help restore the loss of expressive language in patients with aphasia following brain injury from stroke.” Apparently, “music can trigger the release of mood-altering brain chemicals and once-lost memories and emotions.”
The Harvard University Gazette hosts a nice (and surprisingly understandable) article on how the human brain perceives music. One small nugget of information that you can drop at your next cocktail party: As people play and listen to music, different areas of the brain receive increased blood flow and oxygen. According to Professor Daniel Levitin, “music activates the same parts of the brain and causes the same neurochemical cocktail as a lot of other pleasurable activities.
But for all the good music can do, it can sometimes drive humans nuts. Ask Yahoo! tackled a related question a few years back when it answered why certain songs get stuck in your head. Repetition seems to be the main reason. “The more you hear one chorus, beat, or whatever, the more likely it will burrow into your subconscious.” And, unfortunately, 97-99% of people are susceptible. The cure? Listen to another song (preferably something not by Los Del Rio).
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