In ancient China, it was believed that babies should be exposed to music while still in the womb to boost their intellect. Though this might sound strange at first glance, there could be modern scientific evidence to back it up!
Musical development has demonstrated several positive effects on brain development, such as improved sensory and motor function in children. Learning music early on also increases verbal memory. On the other hand, keeping up musical practice in old age may help to preserve cognitive abilities.
How does it work? Certain types of music can increase alpha brain waves, which create a relaxed, alert mental state. These include classical music from the Baroque period and Mozart’s works. Baroque pieces feature rich blends of higher frequencies and rhythms around 60 beats per minute, the ideal rhythm of the human heart. Mozart’s compositions often feature string instrumentals with frequencies in the 5 to 8kHz range. These properties are linked with increased dopamine release, memory efficiency and communication between the left and right halves of the brain. When we listen to music, our brains synchronise with it in a process known as entrainment. Entrainment is so strong that when pairs of jazz guitarists had their brainwaves analysed while jamming, they were found to synchronise with each other! Getting into the groove is now a documented phenomenon.
Additionally, musicians have higher average levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate our 24-hour body clocks. It also has anti-inflammatory, immune system-optimising effects. The most important method of keeping a healthy level of melatonin is to get a good night’s sleep – no jamming at three in the morning! However, if you have any concerns over your sleeping patterns, memory or any other issue, one-on-one professional support is best.
Doidge, N. (2015). The Brain’s Way of Healing.