Music is something that almost every person has their own preference to and their own idea of what genre they like above all else. It is something so simple that is involved in almost everyone's life. Just walking down the street, one may see a jogger listening to an iPod or a driver in a car listening to their stereo. Music is all around and is used in so many things. Commercials, movies, television shows, and so many other means of media rely on getting the right song to relay this specific message to their audience, but how exactly do they know that what they are playing will even affect their listeners?
Sensing sound starts in the ear. Human beings, as well as every other living creature capable of hearing, transform sound waves into an impulse in the nervous system. These sound waves hit the outer ear and act as a stimuli to the nerves in the ear, sending a signal to the brain of what precisely it is hearing. The frequency of these waves creates the pitch and the height of these waves creates the degree of loudness (4). Our ear can only be used to describe how the mind hears the sounds of music, but how can one's mind be affected by the sounds it perceives?
If the brain is only changing the stimuli of sound waves into actual music the body perceives, then how do people have preferences in music? Do these sound waves have an effect on the brain outside of simplistic perception? There are several areas of the mind that are used when perceiving music, which was used in a study at the Rotman Research Institute of Toronto, by Valorie Salimpoor. Nineteen participants underwent a fMRI scan and listened to different songs and were questioned on how much they would pay for song. This used two parts of their brain, the nuclear accumbens and the superior temporal gyrus. The nuclear accumbens, a part of the brain associated to making expectations, showed more activity the higher people chose to pay for a certain selection of music. The superior temporal gyrus was involved in associating the music that the participants were hearing to older music they have heard (1).
The superior temporal gyrus can be used to explain why some people have a specific preference to a song or genre. This part of the brain keeps track of past songs and genres that a person has listened to and then they can look at any new music they hear and compare it to past songs. Children are subjected to music and other auditory stimuli even before they are born. They can hear through the vibrations of the sound through the amniotic sac. This means that this recollection of past heard music can even relate to the music one hears from their parents while they were newborn or even when they were still in the womb.
There are some common misconceptions to listening to music and its effects on the mind, especially when it comes to a fetus. Listening to Mozart, Bach, or other classical musicians while pregnant will not in fact make your child smarter. It also will not allow you to play a song...