Music & Emotions – Can Music Really Make You a Happier Person?

Have you ever turned to music for comfort when you feel down or to lift you up in happy times?

Music has an effect on us all. Scientists have only recently been able to quantify and explain how music affects our emotions. The research into the connections between melody and the brain has shown that music can actually alter the way our brains and bodies function.

It appears that music therapy, despite being a well-established practice, has a healing power over the body and the spirit. Music therapy has been a popular method of relieving anxiety, stress and pain for many years. Music has been suggested as a positive aid to emotional and mood changes.

Michael DeBakey was the first surgeon to successfully insert an artificial heart in 1966. He is known for saying that “Creating and performing musical music promotes self expression and self-gratification, while also giving pleasure to others.” There are increasing numbers of published reports that music can have a healing effect on patients in medicine.

Music therapy is now believed to improve patients’ moods and speed up their recovery. Medical experts across the country are now using the latest findings about music’s effect on the brain to treat patients.

Michael Thaut, a researcher, and his team described how stroke victims, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s patients who had music therapy took larger, more balanced strides compared to those who did not have music therapy.

Researchers have also found that the sound of drums can influence how our bodies function. In a 2001 USA Today article, Suzanne Hasner, the chairwoman of Berklee College of Music’s music therapy department, said that even people with dementia or head injuries can still have musical abilities.

This article reports on the results of an experiment where researchers from the Mind-Body Wellness Center, Meadville (Pa.) tracked 111 patients with cancer who played drums for 30 mins per day. Many of the patients had stronger immune systems and higher levels of cancer-fighting cell.

Hasner states, “Rehearsed music is deeply embedded in our long-term memories.” It is processed in the emotional brain part, the amygdala. This is where you will find the music that was played at your wedding, your first love’s music, and your first dance. Even for people with advanced diseases, such things are still possible to be remembered. It could be a window, a means to reach them

According to the American Music Therapy Organization, music therapy can allow for “emotional intimacy between families and caregivers, relaxation and meaningful time together in a positive and creative way.”

Scientists are making great strides in understanding why music has this effect. Robert Zatorre and Anne Blood, both from McGill University in Montreal, used PET scans to determine if certain brain structures were affected by music Fakaza.

Blood and Zatorre surveyed 10 musicians (five men and five ladies) to select stirring music for their study. After listening to the four audio stimuli, they were given PET scans. Each sequence was repeated three more times in an unrelated order.

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