Wednesday, May 25

Functional music: this is how you can improve your brain

What is the soundtrack of your life? To what melodies have you laughed and danced, to which ones have you cried bitterly and what song was playing while you fell in love? Even if we didn’t know how it works, there is no doubt that music is an emotional experience, as well as sensory and that it activates our brain in many different ways.

Why do we like music

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Music is capable of improving our mood. One study found that people who listened to upbeat pop music for two weeks they felt happier. However, the effect did not work for those who listened to sad Stravinsky symphonies. Even sad music can produce feelings of well-being and comfort for most other people, another study in the UK and Finland found, but some people reacted by feeling even more pain.

Physiological effects of music

It’s not just about cheering yourself up with music. Studies have proven that listening to music has direct effects on our body, among others, reduce blood pressure, reduce stress and relieve pain.

A study that brought data from 73 different trials revealed that people who listened to music before, during or after surgery experienced less pain and anxiety, compared to patients who did not listen to music. In addition, the need for painkillers also decreased. Interestingly, it worked best when patients chose their own music.

Those who do sports know that certain types of topics increase sports performance because it makes fatigue is less noticeable. This effect is surely at the origin of the traditional songs of farm workers or rowers on fishing boats.

The same thing happens when you put on your headphones to go for a run and end up following the rhythm of the song. The Rhythmic music can increase sports performance. But can it help you study for an exam?

Music to study and learn

The brain is sensitive to rhythm, and not just for running. Metronomes or songs have long been used to treat stuttering. But there is more: music can influence our brain waves.

Since the invention of the electroencephalogram, it has been discovered that the brain’s millions of electrical currents have a kind of common frequency, like a chorus. Different frequencies corresponded to different states:

  • gamma: concentration.
  • Beta: dominant anxiety, activity, external attention.
  • Alpha: relaxation, passive attention.
  • Theta: deep relaxation, internal attention.

Even more exciting is the discovery that brain waves naturally sync up with the rhythm of external stimuli, such as flashing lights, speech, touch, or of course music. This is called brain wave synchronization (neural entrainment).

Brainwave frequencies are too low to be heard as a single tone (between 0.5 and 35 Hz), but this can be achieved by intermittent tones, or by combining slightly different audible tones that together generate pulses at the desired frequency , the famous binaural tones. It has been experimentally verified that these tones induce changes in brain waves.

Auditory synchronization is being used to treat patients with Parkinson’s and children with attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity (ADHD). In healthy people it has been observed that binaural tones at beta frequencies improve memory. In another study, by playing tones at theta frequencies, which are also those that occur in deep sleep, to subjects while they were sleeping, increased the duration of that sleep phase.

Not all music is the same

Anyone who has played a DJ at a party knows that different people need different types of music at different times. We intuitively know that certain types of background music can affect our ability to think, concentrate and remember, and it has been proven that someone speaking, or songs with lyrics can negatively affect performanceeven if they are in the background and we do not pay attention.

However, studies have also found that, in general, repetitive music that follows patterns within a certain tonal range, such as New Age or Mozart music, can aid comprehension and memory, while hip-hop, very fast music or the very slow music of Bach have negative effects.

Here personal tastes have a great influence. It has been seen that music we don’t like can distract us when reading and understanding a text, while the one we like does not.

There are apps that play music with mixed binaural tones for different purposes, such as Brain.fm or MyNoise, which offer a musical menu to concentrate, study, calm stress or sleep. It is also easy to find these mixes on Youtube. But don’t forget that you have to like music for your brain to work better.

* Darío Pescador is editor and director of the quo magazine and author of the book your best self published by Oberon, and wrote this article while listening to music with binaural tones at 6 Hz.

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