How Music Affects the Human Brain


Sam Hokkanen, Contributor

According to the Smithsonian, the first evidence of humans making music was approximately thirty-five thousand years ago. It has been at the epicenter of our society since then. Everyone who lives on Earth has heard music. There’s no escaping that fact. We all know how music makes us feel, but the question remains, why do we listen to music? What is it about the melody, the beat, the instruments, and the lyrics, that keeps us listening on a daily basis?

The answer may be more simple than you might think. Music can activate twelve different parts of your brain, most notably the frontal lobe and temporal lobe. On one hand, music enhances the function of these parts of the brain, strengthening our understanding of our surroundings. On the other hand, processing music in the temporal lobe causes us to understand and relate to the sounds and words we are hearing. Musical stimulation in these parts of the brain build mental strength. 

Not only can music enhance brain function, but it can also be used in the medical field. Playing music has been proven to help Parkinson’s patients, reduce seizures, boost the immune system, and assist in repairing brain damage. This is because music, along with soothing sounds, provides comfort and stability to the brain. Significant events in people’s lives are often linked with a type of music or specific songs, which is why patients with dementia respond so well to listening to music they grew up with. In an emotional and mental capacity, your favorite music can evoke memories and leave you with a sense of belonging. Relating to the story and lyrics of a song also account for strong emotional connections with music. It doesn’t matter if it’s rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, hip-hop, or classical, all music can have a large effect on your brain, depending on the environment you grew up in and live in. 

Johns Hopkins found that listening to music is a brain workout; it reduces anxiety, blood pressure, and overall physical pain. It can also improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory. It takes a lot to listen to and process music. Your brain has to do a lot of computing to make sense of what your ears are hearing. Because of the hard work your brain is doing, it can cause you to perceive time differently. We all know that saying, “time flies when you’re having fun.” Well, time also flies when you listen to music. Or slows down. Depends on what you listen to.