Next time you press play, don't take for granted the seemingly effortless way music can shift your emotions -- here's a little breakdown of the complex journey music takes into the brain, how it's processed, and some of its incredible effects.
When you hear music, the sound waves enter your ear and cause your eardrums to vibrate. These vibrations travel to the inner ear where they are translated into electrical signals. Neurons carry these electrical signals to the brainstem where they then get distributed to different parts of the brain to be processed.
This is where things get interesting - and complex. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other high-tech scanners have enabled researchers to see which parts of the brain light up when music is heard. These scans revealed that there isn’t just one area of the brain that processes music; instead, many brain areas jump into action simultaneously. Even more interesting, these different areas of the brain are tasked with processing specific aspects of music (including rhythm, tone, memory) and the emotions they invoke.
When music enters the brain, it stimulates the temporal lobe to process tone and pitch, the Cerebellum to analyze the rhythm and timing, and the amygdala and hippocampus to interpret emotion and memory. Music also activates several parts of the brain’s reward system, releasing the feel-good hormone dopamine and decreasing stress-causing cortisol.
The way the brain processes music is so complex that there is an entire scientific discipline dedicated to studying it, called Neuromusicology. Different characteristics of music, such as melodic verse dissonance, activate certain sections of the brain to different extents. The distinct musical characteristics along with the parts of the brain activated result in the mental health benefits experienced from listening to a song. These benefits are vast, ranging from stress reduction, to mood improvement, to busting out of morning brain fog, to improving sleep, to improving focus, to enhancing memory and boosting productivity.
Sounds like magic? It’s not, it’s science. :) In recent years more funding and research has gone into fields devoted to this complex understanding of the brain and music in both research and clinical settings. This research and these deeper understandings of music's unique capacities to fundamentally change the brain has made Spiritune's music-based approach to mental health possible today. Building and designing music from clinically-informed, evidence-based research in music therapy and neuroscience from leading institutions like Stanford and NYU, Spiritune is a mobile app that delivers compositions optimized and adapted around specific musical characteristics to help support your desired emotional outcome. With this level of precision, Spiritune creates music with the sole intent of enhancing music’s health benefits and tuning into specific emotions and goals.