Music therapy: Can music improve your memory?


Music is a beautiful art form that helps combine the motor and auditory skills. Listening to music can affect each person differently. Music can influence the psychological, physiological, emotional, and addictive brain. Hence, it is a therapeutic, risk-free, well-established method to treat certain conditions professionally and personally. Music therapy can also improve overall health by reducing blood pressure and maintaining heart rate. It also promotes neuroplasticity and demotes neurodegeneration, improving memory and delaying aging, respectively.

Music therapy is a great way to overcome complications because the response is usually positive since nothing else can grab attention.

The clients are responsive to music because it is motivating, engaging, and undoubtedly the most potent stimuli. 

Hence, it acts as a natural reinforcer. Simultaneously, this method of therapy can help individuals with difficulties in auditory processing.

Can music help improve cognitive skills? — The Mozart effect

It was long known that kids who listened to Mozart while growing up had improved cognition and more IQ. Results from studies provoked parents to start exposing their kids to a lot of Mozart and classical music. In contrast, studies have mixed reviews about the Mozart effect.

A study divided subjects into two groups- one that listened to Mozart and the other that listened to absolute silence. Later, they asked them to perform tasks, which required spatial thinking. The former group that listened to Mozart performed better than the other group.

The researchers did not claim that listening to Mozart would improve IQ in kids. Moreover, a huge surprise is that the study wasn’t conducted on children, rather young adults were the subjects. Results also suggest that the effect was temporary and lasted only for 10-15 minutes, after which it wore off. 

Theories explaining the effect

People then started to theorize why Mozart’s music had this specific effect. The best theory involved is “brain arousal.” Your mind needs to be active, and something should get it going. Listen to music that feels appealing to you. Listening to pleasurable music will activate the cortical and subcortical regions involved in emotional processing.

Emotions associated with heightened arousal, temporarily improve performance in cognitive domains. Music in a clinical setting will allow the clients to divert their attention from unpleasant and future-oriented anxiety.

The music you listen to changes your perceptions and thoughts. Mozart’s classical music had a rather calming effect on the subjects and thus performed better than the other group. Later studies prove that not only Mozarts’ but other songs also had the same or better impact.

Commonly, you feel anxious before your performance. If you get on the stage for your presentation or enter an interview room with the same anxiety, you tend to perform worse than what you would typically do. The calming effect and brain arousal is the reason why people listen to their kind of music before a huge performance. It is essential to note that the effect lasts for a couple minutes and usually varies from person to person. Besides, you can have the desired effect only if you enjoy the music.

Conclusively, listening to Mozart will not do any harm. Additionally, it won’t have any effect on your kids’ cognition, although music as a whole will have other better impacts on your brain.

Can music therapy help overcome autism?

Music therapy is a risk-free and preferable therapeutic tool to help people overcome autism. Autism is a condition in which few regions of the brain are overly connected, and a few are loosely connected. These connections are the primary reason behind the difficulties in social and verbal skills in autism.

The foundation of music therapy is connection. Once the client feels connected to the therapist, they start to express themselves.

Initially, the therapist assesses the strength and needs of a person and develops an appropriate treatment. They may work in groups or on an individual basis. He/she can also come up with techniques that the client can employ at home too.

The two kinds of therapies that can provoke the desired effect in the client are- Active and passive therapy. In active therapy, both the therapist and client sing or perform together. This togetherness builds up a trust for the opposite person in the autistic client. Moreover, singing promotes verbal communication.

Contrastingly, in passive therapy, the person usually listens to the therapist perform. They enjoy music as the audience.  

Music helps reconnect the auditory and motor regions of the brain along with sensory signals. With repetitive training, the brain pathways reinforce and gradually improve. 

It can also improve social skills, behavior, and communication efficiently– the keys to overcome autism. Music also helps improve the sensory signals, eventually improving social skills.

Is music therapy an effective treatment for memory loss in Dementia?

Music is capable of evoking a certain kind of response in every individual. Dementia patients experience memory loss due to brain atrophy, i.e., neural cell death. 

While working on old clients, the therapists employ old country music to bring back the emotions associated with the specific music.

Emotions bring back memories and eventually work as a treatment for the worsening memory of a Dementia patient.

The primary reason behind this phenomenon is that Dementia will not affect the parts of the brain which respond to music. Although it’s effect is observed in different regions of the brain. 

Another method is pairing music with regular chores. This rhythm helps them recall the activity and improve their ability to do the same task. Also, playing a song can positively impact and urges the person to sing and dance in a care-free manner, bringing back the emotions. 

How can you use music as a therapy?

  • Listen to songs that enhance your mood: If you are off for an interview or a stage performance, listen to the songs that can excite you, elevate your energy levels, and improve your social skills. Know what kind of songs work for you consciously and choose the one that vibes with your current emotional state to enhance your mood.
  • Listen to the music that changes your mood: If you’re disturbed by relationship troubles just before your huge performance, make sure you listen to happy music that helps elevate your mood. Try listening to happy music when you are sad, to change your overall mood. Pop in songs contrasting your current mood and see where it takes you. However, note that the effect may differ from person to person.
  • Try to listen actively: While listening to a song, try to stay still and listen deeply. Try to understand the emotion of the artist. Close your eyes and observe the psychological and physiological reactions of your body to the specific song. The feeling is usually intense. It may be euphoric or depressive. Choose wisely!
  • Try songs outside your comfort zone: If you are into rock music, pop in some rap to your rhythm. If you are into pop songs, bring in some metal into your rhythm. It usually has some surprising benefits. See where it takes you!

Related: Music effects on the brain: It changes your thoughts and perceptions

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