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Surprising ways music affects humans

23 May 2020 12:32 (UTC+04:00)
Surprising ways music affects humans

By Laman Ismayilova

It goes without saying that music is the universal language of mankind. Listening to your favorite songs can wash away all your worries and fears and lift your spirit up. In one word, no matter what, music will always be there for you.

The power of music never fails to surprise us as it can trigger a wide range of emotions.
Numerous studies have shown that music impacts brain function and human behavior in unexpected ways.
Let's see some of the most intriguing facts about the power of music!

Brains of jazz and classical pianists work differently

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig have found out that brain activity of jazz pianists differs from those of classical pianists, even while playing the same music piece.

The scientists invited 30 professional pianists to take part in the experiment. Both groups of musicians got to see a hand on a screen which played a sequence of chords on a piano scattered with mistakes in harmonies and fingering. The professional pianists had to imitate this hand and react accordingly to the irregularities while their brain signals were registered with EEG sensors on the head.

According to the current study, the main difference between the two groups of musicians is the way in which they plan movements while playing the piano.

Classical pianists focus on how to play music pieces perfectly regarding their technique and adding personal expression. By contrast, jazz pianist focus more on harmonies and being comfortable adapting to unexpected musical changes.

"Indeed, in the jazz pianists we found neural evidence for this flexibility in planning harmonies when playing the piano. When we asked them to play a harmonically unexpected chord within a standard chord progression, their brains started to re-plan the actions faster than classical pianists. Accordingly, they were better able to react and continue their performance. Interestingly, the classical pianists performed better than the others when it came to following unusual fingering. In these cases their brains showed stronger awareness of the fingering, and consequently they made fewer errors while imitating the chord sequence," says Roberta Bianco, first author of the study.

Musicians read emotions better

Neuroscientists asked 30 people to watch a subtitled nature film while listening to a 250-millisecond clip of a distressed baby’s cry. Using scalp electrodes, they measured how sensitive the people were to the sound.

After experiment, the researchers concluded that the musicians were able to hone in directly to the emotional aspect of the sound, while non-musicians weren't able to compartmentalize the sound as easily.

"That [musicians'] brains respond more quickly and accurately than the brains of non-musicians is something we’d expect to translate into the perception of emotion in other settings,” said Dana Strait, a graduate student at Northwestern University and first author of a paper detailing the findings in the latest issue of the European Journal of Neuroscience.

Another research was conducted by University College London in 2018, proved that people with more musical training repeatedly demonstrate enhanced auditory perception abilities.

The study involved both musician and non-musician groups, who took part in a version of the audio-visual emotional Stroop test, using happy, neutral, and sad emotions.

During research, participants were presented with congruent and incongruent combinations of face and voice stimuli while judging the emotion of either the face or the voice.

The study proved that musicians were less susceptible to interference from visual information on auditory emotion judgments than non-musicians.

Moreover, they were also more accurate than non-musicians at identifying visual emotions when presented with concurrent auditory information.

Music has a color

Some people are able to see colors when hearing music. This rare neurological condition is known as "synesthesia" or chromesthesia.

The studies have reveled unusual connections in synesthetes' adjacent brain regions, similar to those in babies; in fact, it is believed that all babies have synesthesia until they are about four months old.

The earliest recorded case of synesthesia is attributed to the Oxford University academic and philosopher John Locke. In 1690, he made a report about a blind man who said he experienced the color scarlet when he heard the sound of a trumpet.

Another interesting fact is that synesthesia is more prevalent in musicians, artists and writers. Vladimir Nabokov, Franz Liszt, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Vincent Van Gogh, Patrick Stumph (Fall Out Boys), Ed Sheeran, Pharrell Williams, Brendon Urie (Panic! at the Disco) are among them.

Music can boost your mood

Listening to music can have the same effect on your brain as opioids and endorphins.

McGill University scientists has revealed that the chill you get from listening to your favorite track releases natural opioids such as endorphins thus blocking pain and induce feelings of pleasure.

"Preliminary studies have shown that music listening and performing modulate levels of serotonin, epinephrine, dopamine, oxytocin, and prolactin.

Music can reliably induce feelings of pleasure, and indeed, people consistently rank music as among the top ten things in their lives that bring pleasure, above money, food, and art," McGill University scientists wrote.


Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova

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