The magic of music: its power to stimulate change

June 27, 2023

Collage concept by Roberto with photos by Zeke Nesher (man) and Expect Best (background) from Pexels

Roberto José Quintero Stella tunes in to the impact that music has on our mind, body and soul

Music: we listen to it when waking up, while travelling, on our own and with friends. It is a powerful form of entertainment. It can bring us joy and motivate us, accompany us through difficult times and cuts across all cultures. But this is just scratching the surface. Music has the potential to provide so much more.

I appreciate music massively, it improves quality of my life. Recently, sitting in my bedroom in London with music blaring, a track came on that literally teleported me back to my childhood in Colombia. I was overwhelmed by the sweet smell of hot chocolate accompanied by the fresh Tamale, with the sounds of laughter, my family having a good time. There was a sense of nostalgia in the air as the music magically took me back in time.

I’m one of those people that listens to music while I’m exercising or dancing. I play songs with a deep and punchy bass line and lots of movement. It helps increase my heart rate and gives me a final push to complete my routine.

Music is medicine. It can stimulate the brain, ease our fears, and calm our hearts. In fact, from mental health issues to Alzheimer’s and heart disease, research shows that music can be as powerful as some medications to help heal what troubles us.

Our brains have been shown to link a certain piece of music to a place or person

When we are exposed to music that has a fast beat a part of our brain is stimulated. This leads to an increased heart rate. When we listen to music with a slow beat the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and our heart rate decreases. New research by Medical News Today has found that listening to 30 minutes of music a day significantly reduces the risk of heart health problems.

The part of the brain that controls our long-term and short-term memory is called the hippocampus. If the hippocampus has been damaged through an accident or illness this can affect our memory or the ability to make new memories.

However, in some cases our past memories, before the accident or illness, may still be intact. Here is where music comes into play. Music can help the regeneration of neurons in the brain, known as neurogenesis, ultimately leading to cerebral plasticity, in turn enhancing focus and cognition.

Our brains have been shown to link a certain piece of music to a place or person. A great example of this happens in the movie 50 First Dates. The female protagonist, Lucy Whitmore is involved in a car crash, which leads to amnesia. So, she forgets her date with male protagonist Henry Roth. This inspires him to win her over anew each day they meet. The question is how will Lucy remember her times with and feelings for Henry?

There are so many reasons to be grateful for the positive properties of music

The answer is music. Somehow, she associates the song Wouldn’t It be Nice by the Beach Boys with him. She sings this song at the top of her lungs every time she sees him… and so the story unfolds.

Music improves health and well being, mood, and emotion through the engagement of the neurochemical systems responsible for the neurotransmitter dopamine. Music can trigger parts of the brain, the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala, both linked to seeking pleasure and emotional expression.

When we listen to music dopamine is released and it brings our emotions to the surface: happiness, love, sadness, fear or being ready for a fight. It can motivate you to achieve your goals or bring you to your senses.

Music can be like a drug for some people because it increases the amount of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, in the same way cocaine acts on the brain.

There are so many reasons to be grateful for the positive properties of music. It’s completely amazing realising the impact it can have on our mood, health and wellbeing, as well as motivating us to exercise and dance to the beat.

All of these emotions we feel and express are awakened by sounds working together in harmony.

Why are you thankful for music?

Roberto is a student at The Compton sixth form studying Chemistry, Physics and Spanish. He loves listening to music, skateboarding and the sense of freedom it brings.

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