Generally, music has been considered as a way of entertaining and achieving gratification among people. Music, however, has been critical in facilitating recovery among patients. Human brain is responsible for interpreting music, but effects of music could induce biochemical reactions in a person’s body (Gangrade 2012). Available evidence shows that listening to music can trigger pleasure-seeking parts of the brain and make them to respond to food, sex and drugs (Salimpoor, Benovoy, Larcher, Dagher, & Zatorre 2011).
According to Gangrade (2012), research on “the biological effects of music has revolved around studies involving brain mapping and physiological parameters such as heart rate and blood pressure, venturing to explain the cognitive processes behind music appreciation, stress relief, and manifestations of emotions” (p. 40). However, researchers have hypothesised how music inception occurs in the brain to produce various changes. Music can result into the production of various body messengers such as “hormones, neurotransmitters, cytokines, and proteins to elicit biological responses to stress, emotion and immune function” (Gangrade 2012, p. 40).
Different types of music and hormonal release
Maglione has showed that classical music influences the brain’s abilities and organisation by its rhythm and melody (Maglione 2006). Rhythm and melody are critical elements of music with varied effects on the human body. For instance, melody facilitates creativity, whereas rhythm aligns emotions to fit into certain patterns. As a result, individuals have been linked to certain musical rhythms, which could depict patterns in walking, breathing, chewing and heart rate among others.
Specifically, musical rhythm is responsible for increasing the level of serotonin in the brain. The release of serotonin promotes critical thinking. It affects the nerve impulses, which are responsible for feelings of joy. The release of serotonin leads to the reduction in the body tension. Maglione (2006) noted that depression results from a low production of serotonin hormone. The brain may only release the hormone when it experiences ‘positive shock’. Such positive shocks arouse the brain and increase pleasant feelings in people.
The rhythm of the music may also be responsible for stimulating other body cadencies, which could be similar to the heartbeat. The outcome of this process is critical in managing cases of clinical depression among patients.
The influences of music on the brain are many. Music could influence human brain development (Maglione 2006). Music increases the level of spatial IQ by improving both short-term and long-term memory. As a result, trained musicians could perform well on word memory evaluation than the rest of the public. The effects of music could have significant benefits in children than in adults, particularly with regard to cognitive development.
The classic finding that illustrates the ‘Mozart effect’ shows how critical music can influence the performance of spatial-temporal reasoning and memory in people when they listen to highly complex music like Mozart.
The affects of the hormones released
The released hormones have critical influence on humans. For instance, the released dopamine affects emotions (Salimpoor et al. 2011). Such activities could affect the dilation of the pupils, enhance blood pressure and heart beats (Maglione 2006). Consequently, the brain can work effectively, improve concentration and process a lot of information faster. Such effects result from the ability of the music to stimulate both the right and left hemispheres of the brain simultaneously. As a result, learning may take place faster because of music effects on cognitive development.
It is imperative to note that music could have different effects on people. Certain music may impair cognitive functions, affect memory and task performance (Perham & Vizard 2010). According to Perham and Vizard (2010), people perform tasks better while they are in “the quieter, steady-state environments” (p. 625). This occurs irrespective of whether people like or dislikes music. Changes in sounds and music performance produce acoustic changes in a given environment.
As a result, music hampers people’s ability to recall items through rehearsal. This study outcome could show that acoustic variations in music and background conditions may affect hormones that enhance short-term memories. This is contrary to earlier findings that have demonstrated positive effects of music in improving memory and other cognitive functions (Maglione 2006). For instance, many researchers have shown how music can alleviate stress, depression and anxiety, as well as improve cognitive abilities (Perham & Vizard 2010). However, previous studies did not address how people listened to music, for instance, if benefits of listening to music would remain the same if people were engaged in other activities.
Curtis shows that music can be used effectively among people who face terminal illnesses to provide solace (Curtis 2011). Music interventions may include music therapists or pre-recorded music to enhance psychological and physiological conditions of patients. The use of music to enhance psychological and physiological well-being of patients has achieved recognition in care facilities as a form of complementary intervention to individuals with various conditions, such as pain, cancer or under rehabilitation. All these positive effects depend on abilities of music to influence hormone production in the body (Gangrade 2012, p. 40).
Listening to music and immunity
Music is highly effective in enhancing immunity activities. According to Rider, Floyd and Kirkpatrick (1985), there is a decrease in the production of “corticosteroid, which correlates with the effect of music on immunity” (p. 46). At the same time, hormonal changes cause the level of salivary IgA to rise significantly (McCraty, Atkinson, Rein, & Watkins 1996; Rider & Weldin 1990; Montello, 1995). On the other hand, IL-1 was associated with the decline in salivary and plasma cortisol levels (Bartlett, Kaufman, & Smeltekop 1993).
In addition, music has a critical role on reducing harmful effects of stress on the human body immunity system. In this regard, effects of music on managing stress have been compared to other pharmacological interventions such as “benzodiazepines and 5 hydroxytryptamine (HT) agonists” (Gangrade 2012).
Gangrade further suggests that music could lead to the generation of hormones and neurotransmitters that are vital in the T cell growth and controlling of tumour signalling (Gangrade, 2012). The body has simple and complex messengers that are vital for its survival. In this regard, hormones are clearly important for various physiological processes, growth and development in the body. Specifically, neurotransmitters are responsible for “controlling neurons while cytokines are necessary for the maintenance of immunity and body cell growth” (Gangrade 2012, p. 40). The roles of protein in the body are numerous, including cell growth and tissue composition (Lodish, Zipursky, Matsudaira, Baltimore, & Darnell, 2000).
Musically trained individuals seemed to perform better in memory relative to other people (Maglione 2006). This results from the production of messenger, which enhances both long-term and short-term memory. Wachi et al. (2007) showed that active participation in “producing music increased natural killer (NK) cell activity and changed gene expressions for interferon-γ and IL-10” (p. CR57). Many researchers have demonstrated that musical abilities affect the production of hormones (Fukui & Yamashita 2003).
Such studies have compared the performances of musically talented individuals and people who simply listen to music based on the generation of IgA and cortisol (Kreutz, Bongard, Rohrmann, Hodapp, & Grebe 2004). Nevertheless, there is a need to conduct further studies to determine functions of hormones and other messengers that the body releases when a person listens to music.
Exposure to music could be responsible for the release certain hormones, but their functions may not be necessarily associated causative (Gangrade 2012). One major challenge is to overcome the complex nature of hormones when examining their relations to music. For instance, the body may release certain hormones a means of responding to the production of other hormones.
Given the known positive outcomes of music on humans, it has been used to improve clinical therapy in patients. According to a study by Uchiyama et al. (2012), music could be used to “reduce rejection of heart transplants in mice by influencing the immune system” (p. 6).
However, it is necessary for researchers to understand that there is no clear relation between the brain function and the immune system (Uchiyama et al. 2012). Nevertheless, music has been effectively used to control cases of patients with anxiety after heart attack, control pain, and nausea during clinical procedures. According to Uchiyama et al. (2012), evidence suggests that music could influence such conditions through the parasympathetic nervous system. This system regulates body functions that an individual may not control. In this regard, one can conclude that music indeed influences the immune system although a clear mechanism remains unknown or vaguely understood.
Use music to restore hormonal challenges
According to Fukui, Toyoshima, Kuda, and Iguchi (2006), music may “balance messenger levels by increasing and decreasing steroids in those with low and high hormone levels, respectively” (p. S58). Depression results from inadequate production of serotonin hormones (Maglione 2006). This implies that the brain lacks a positive shock to facilitate the production of serotonin hormone. Hence, music can be used to provide positive shock for the brain in order to restore or enhance production of hormones and control depression.
Some researchers have observed that distraction is an effective pain reliever (Bradshaw, Donaldson, Jacobson, Nakamura, & Chapman 2011). Bradshaw et al. (2011) concluded that, “listening to music could be effective for reducing pain in high-anxiety persons who can easily become absorbed in cognitive activities” (p. 1262). Such effects results from hormonal balance in the body. Major arousal from pain stimuli effectively reduced as people engage in music-demanding activities. Music is responsible for activating sensory elements to counteract pain pathways. As a result, there is emotional response and engaged cognitive functions (Bradshaw et al. 2011).
In this regard, music restores hormonal challenges and ensures balance in the body to counteract pain pathways and therefore, it reduces pain. This study shows that when high anxiety people listen to music attentively, they can effectively reduce pain. The major outcomes depend on the interaction between a person’s absorption and anxiety. As a result, it is imperative to consider such factors when recommending music as a tool for relieving pain in patients. This implies that music may fail to engage other high anxiety individuals and not produce and restore the desired hormone levels to counteract pain.
For many people, music is just a form of enjoyment and gratification. However, recent studies have revealed important information on effects of music on hormones and subsequent benefits to human body. Music helps the body to release hormones that enhance both cognitive and physiological activities. One major area of the study has been how music reduces anxiety in individuals who may have high anxiety disorders. Such studies have shown positive outcomes (Curtis 2011; Bradshaw et al. 2011; Gangrade 2012; Montello, 1995).
Music also results into the release of hormones in the body for various purposes. For instance, it can result into the release of hormones that enhance cognitive activities, which develop both short-term and long-term memories of individuals. Various hormones produced have diverse affects on people. For individuals who experience pain, their bodies may release certain hormones to counteract pain pathways and reduce pain when they listen to engaging music.
On the other hand, music may aid the body to release hormones that enhance immunity. This lessens harmful effects of anxiety, stress and boosts body healing. In this regard, music has been effective in restoring hormonal balance in people. For instance, people who may not produce adequate hormones require ‘positive shock’ from music to help them generate such hormones. Therefore, music can enhance quality of life in clinical settings and in normal environments. However, recent studies show that outcomes may vary among individuals and other factors such as changes in the music and background may affect outcomes.
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