Music has been a big part of our species’ development since, well, forever. There are certain parts of the brain that react specifically to music, not just sounds in general. There are regions in the auditory cortex, according to one MIT lab, that show intense activation when listening to music and have little to no activation when you hear, say, a phone ring or someone else’s voice. Our brains are built to listen to music.
Your favorite neuroscientist Shannon Odell joined up with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart to explore exactly what music does to your brain. This past April, the American Museum of Natural History put on a special show in tandem with its “Our Senses” exhibit, which included Mickey’s trippy music, a whole lotta lasers, and a unique instrument called “The Beam.” Shannon hung out in the museum’s planetarium with Mickey and discussed her findings. Here are the highlights.
You know that one My Chemical Romance jam from your teens that makes you feel like you can literally fight the world? Well, it turns out, it’s kind of true. Studies have shown that when listening to music, specifically your favorite song, your brain has an increased tolerance for pain and can recover from operations quicker. This implies that the brain stimulates the release of endogenous opioids in the brain. So, if you feel invincible during that part of the song where Gerard Way is yelling about being misunderstood, that’s because you kind of are.
Different kinds of music affect our brains in different ways. Tempo, rhythm, instruments, they all change how our bodies and brains react to songs. Check out the latest episode of Your Brain on (Blank) to see how exactly our brains react to each component of music.