“A dream would be that in 5 years-time, we are in a place where you can take a day off for your mental health, the same way you might take a day off for a flu” – Aifric Lennon, Music x Mind researcher at MassiveMusic*
Music and the Mind
An emerging body of research in the area of music and the mind is surfacing. Every month, a new paper or study gets published on this topic.
Aifric Lennon, Music x Mind researcher at international creative music agency MassiveMusic, highlights two seminal studies on this topic. In 2011, Valerie Salimpoor used a functional MRI scanner to measure the release of dopamine during music listening. This important study showed that when listening to music they love, people experience a high in dopamine, the same way they do when eating chocolate, having sex or being in love.
Another crucial study carried out by Fritz et al examined how an indigenous tribe reacted to popular western music and were able to identify the same emotions as a Western audience would. It seems that how we perceive emotion in music is universally understood, and independent of culture or language. It highlights the question of whether music response is thus innate or learned.
Music, the Mind and the Workplace
Beyond academia, companies are also awakening to the benefits of music. In addition to providing flexible working hours and access to mental healthcare for their staff, companies are now busy with creating playlists for workers to help ease their stress. Following studies that show the power of beat-driven music on Parkinson’s disease, Spotify has for example, designed playlists to help people suffering from that disease.
Tech start-ups seem especially active in promoting employees’ wellbeing by encouraging jam sessions, playing an instrument or being more creative. Such initiatives are proven to help reduce the level of stress and prevent anxiety disorder.
Stepping into an Auditive Culture
Today the assault on the senses caused by advertising and social media is having a dramatic effect. People seem to be moving away from the visual. Podcasts and sound audio communication are on the rise with 50 % of the searches in the US now being conducted through voice.
The negative effects of social media on memory and concentration levels, as well as on our ability to connect and feel empathy, and on the brain in general, contribute to our level of exhaustion. To deal with overwhelm, we have entered a headphone culture as a way to shut off and cope with our surroundings.
The difference between those images and sounds we are exposed to (sometimes assaulted with) versus the sounds and visuals we allow into our lives is a big one. With the rise of music streaming and podcast listening, it seems the modern day human is beginning to ‘crack the code’ on navigating this over-saturated media landscape.
“As audio specialists at MassiveMusic, one of our main missions here is to make the world sound better – this can be executed in many different ways – not least through our work with brands, but also through our Music x Mind work which aims to use the power of the right music to help those suffering with mental struggle.” – Aifric Lennon, Music x Mind researcher at MassiveMusic
Great Practices to Aid Brain Health
Sleep is a big topic when considering great practices to aid brain health. To this, regular exercise follows close.
Surrounding yourself with kind people, people that lift you up, give you a social connection and inspire you to think in different ways is also extremely important. Research on Alzheimer’s has proven how the lack of social connection and bad sleep are contributing factors to the disease.
Experts go on saying how important it is to disconnect and reduce the number of hours you spend on your mobile phone.
In this urgent pursue of mindfulness, meditation apps – from Calm to Headspace – are catching up like wild-fire. Mindscape, for example, is the first ever AI voice-activated app designed to combat anxiety through a series of questions, breathing exercises and music, with six tracks specially developed to guide your heart beat into calmness or sleep.
In a nutshell, staying creative, meditating, exercising singing, listening to or playing music, even attending a concert are great practices in supporting your brain health.
*This article is the result of an interview with Aifric Lennon – Music & Mind Researcher and Project Manager at MassiveMusic London. Fresh out of an MSc in Music Mind and Brain at Goldsmiths, Aifric Lennon works on understanding how the connection between music and emotion can leverage brands through sound, as well as improve mental wellbeing. She recently worked on Mindscape (available on Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa), the first ever AI voice-activated app to combat anxiety through a series of questions, breathing exercises and music.