Professor in neuropsychology Erik Scherder gave a public lecture in Amsterdam last week to discuss his latest research regarding the effects of listening and making music on the workings of the brain. The conclusion: music, and especially making it yourself, improves the quality of your life and makes you a better person because of increased inner connections in the brain.
Erik Scherder teaches at VU University in Amsterdam and researched the academic body of work focused on the link and effect of music on the human brain. ‘[Neurologist] Gottfried Schlaug proved that children who make music increase the connection between the hemispheres of the brain, which is incredibly important when growing up.’
During his lecture, Scherder picked up the violin that he’s been playing for two years now. His brain is being scanned whilst playing a short piece of music to the audience in the Concertgebouw where the lecture was being held. When he is done he tells the audience “I know you did not particularly like what I just played, and neither did I. But let’s take a look at my brain: the prefrontal cortex is hard at work now!” This activation results in tasks being resolved in the brain that other men of sixty years old could not do as well, because of natural age-related deterioration. “Listening and especially making music increases the bridge between the pre-frontal cortex and the area in the back of your brain, which results in heightened empathy.” So you can actually start to become a better, more caring person by playing an instrument.
“Listening and especially making music increases the bridge between the pre-frontal cortex and the area in the back of your brain, which results in heightened empathy.”
Listening to music can also improve the ‘health’ of your brain and other physical aspects. There is a lot of writing about the effects of different kinds of music on listeners. For instance, listening to heavy metal had shown to increase fear and stresslevels in various studies. Test persons’ heart rates went up while blood pressures dropped. There is a side note here though, as these results only showed up in people who did not actually like heavy metal – and most people in the test groups did not. “If you listen to the music you like, whatever music that may be, you see very different results. Then you see all kinds of connections starting to show up within the brain.”
Scherder has, as of yet, not spoken of the effects that electronic dance music has on the brain. It is a well known fact, though, that dancing in general is good for the brain. A Columbia University neuroscientist posted in an academic magazine that synchronising music and movement—dance, essentially—constitutes a “pleasure double play.” Music stimulates the brain’s reward centers, while dance activates its sensory and motor circuits.
We could advise that you should start dancing more, but we guess that would be needless to tell our readership.