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The Intersection of Science, Art, Music & Humanities

Music Can Nourish Our Brains

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Today's Sunday Morning Stop at the Intersection of Science, Art, Music, and Humanities looks at the science-based role all types of music can play in uplifting mood in those suffering from clinical sadness, which affects the way people eat, sleep, exercise, and feel about themselves and their life situation.

Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss, or passing mood states, overwhelming sadness can be persistent and can significantly interfere with thoughts, behavior, mood activity, and physical health. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, overwhelming sadness affects almost 10 percent of the US population age 19 and older in a given year that unfortunately, can lead to suicide, which has become a major public health issue, since more than 45,000 people in the US now take their own lives every year. 

Today's good news

There is science-based evidence that music therapy can lift mood and also increase responsiveness to pharmaceutical medications, with home-based programs of music therapy having long-lasting effects, including reduction in heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, mood, and sleep quality.  

A scientific report published in Nature on functional brain connectivity suggests that music reflecting each listener's personal preference produces more positive effects. 

Regardless of type of music, research focused on how different characteristics of music affect the brain, all subjects report they most often experience personal thoughts and memories when listening to music they like. 

Internally focused thoughts, known as the default mode network, is most connected with listening to preferred music, because it alters the connectivity between auditory brain areas and the hippocampus, a region responsible for memory and social emotion consolidation. 

Given that musical preferences are uniquely individualized phenomena and that music can vary in acoustic complexity and the presence or absence of lyrics, the consistency of studied results strongly suggest that comparable emotional and mental states people may experience listening to music differ as widely as Mozart and Eminem. 

Our in-house staff research suggested that funk style music makes them want to move to the beat and most always lifts their moods. Bruno Mars was the hands-down winner, with Prince coming in close behind. They are obviously showing their age.

The above video featuring Mozart's Eine kleine Nachmusik lifts my mood, as does most any Coltrane, Miles, Ella,  Aretha, or Sarah, particularly when these ladies are singing tunes from the Great American Songbook. We also included Gypsy Jazz rap, since it's becoming a delightful mood lifter for all of us. 

The bottom line: Never stop listening to the music that becomes cellular, nourishes your soul, and lifts your mood, because it's all proving to be good for mental health. 

Happy Sunday.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff