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Music on the Brain

Last updated on November 21, 2021

By Madison M. ’24

Throughout history, music has proven to impact human brain development and physical endurance, whether that be negative or positive. Some enjoy classical, maybe blues or rap, while others choose not to indulge in music at all. No matter your musical tendencies, it is bound to affect you in one way or another. But how does it affect teenagers who are in their peak brain development stage? 

The fundamental culture surrounding music and teenagers is individualism. Behind all of the angst is a young adult attempting to find themselves, and they usually start this journey through music. 

But why music? Well, music could perhaps be the easiest form of art to access, and can be enjoyed from just about any corner of the world. Not only is it easy to access, but it can also be created anywhere, anytime and with anything. A pot? No problem. A water bottle? Even better. You can even use just your voice to create beautiful melodies. 

Music, similar to clothing style or hobbies, is often stereotyped, tying those listeners to an assumption they might not fall under. Jumping on the bandwagon, or liking what is popular just because it’s popular, is simply a biological effect of wanting to belong. Who is most concerned with belonging? Teenagers. As Parent Samurai, a site dedicated to teenage research, puts it, “They [teens] do so to gain acceptance and approval, even if they don’t actually care for the music itself.” 

While some teenagers use music to boost their reputation, others delve into the endless complexity of musical arts. Oftentimes people will use music to realign their emotions, almost as if their favorite song can increase serotonin levels. Well, that’s because it can. Music can also reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduce stress hormones, all proven by NorthShore University Health System. So when teens listen to music for hours, it’s not only because they need a way to express themselves, but also because it improves their mental health. 

Music has also been proven to do more specific things. For example, the frontal lobe, which is described as the “most important thing to a human being” by University of Central Florida can be thoroughly enhanced by music. If you were to play an instrument, even at the age of five, you could probably remember that when you’re sixty because of muscle memory. In theory, the reason most people love music is because you may be addicted to it. Music stimulates the nucleus accumbens, the same fragment of your brain that triggers addiction, like gambiling or drugs. The most significant aspect of musically heightened brain behavior takes place in the amygdala. This area specializes in emotional regulation, and when you listen to music, the amygdala is triggered creating emotionally stimulating bodily reactions, like chills or sudden relaxation.

Now that we’ve covered why people love music, what is it that people love? Depending on where you come from, stereotypical connotations are most often identified with genres of music. For example, someone who listens to rap might be associated with ignorant overtones like drugs and crime and gangs, while someone who listens to country might be associated with the deep south and barbecues and fishing. However these presumptions often aren’t accurate and can come off as racist or offensive. The truth is anyone can listen to any type of music. 

The good thing about genres are you don’t have to pick one and run with it. Depending on your mood or situation, different genres help with different things. Usually classical music is best for focusing or relaxing and has proven to increase the quality of sleep one has. Or maybe you need to get pumped for a championship game? Try rap or rock. How about you suddenly feel love in the air? Pop and R&B can help that. 

Despite the ignorance within the music realm, behind all of the concerts, albums and merchandise is a brain working in harmony to create an ethereal feeling. 

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