It is not an exaggeration to say that music is a primal aspect of the human species. Evidence has shown that music even existed before language as a means of expression. All throughout history, every culture has made its own version of music and dance, regardless of its level of advancement. Music helps us express ourselves and enhance emotions such as joy and sorrow, but music also has the power to bring a sense of unity and security when we experience fear. The footage of Italian families signing from balconies during the COVID-19 lockdown brought comfort to all of us at a time when the world was collectively holding its breath.
Music, like all sound, consists of vibrations, but studies have proven that our brains and nervous systems are hard-wired to distinguish music from other noises. Music is based on relationships between one note and the next, giving our brains a mathematical, structural, and architectural workout without us even noticing. Vibrations tickle our eardrums and transmit electrical signals from our auditory nerve to our brain stem. It is reassembled there as our perception of music. Perception is an important distinction since all brains are wired differently. Not everyone will respond to a piece of music in the same way.
Many studies on music and its impact on the brain are still in progress. Researchers focus on numerous theories, such as music’s ability to enhance physical health. The Sound Health project has joined The National Institute of Health and National Symphony Orchestra with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Their aim is to further understand how performing, listening or creating music impacts the complex circuitry in our brains. The findings will be used to improve the quality of life for people, as well as promote music’s potential as a non-invasive form of therapy for neurological disorders. Another Sound Health project will focus on people who suffer from Schizophrenia. The hypothesis is that bringing groups together to write and perform music for one another will assist their brains with revising and updating a sense of reality and self.
Many studies are being done with the elderly population as well. an AARP survey of over 3,000 participants found that music statistically improved people’s depression, anxiety, and mental well-being overall. Researchers are also exploring how music may help the verbal abilities and memory in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.