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Music And The Brain Essay

1763 words - 8 pages

People are constantly exposed to music. Whether it is in a car, an elevator, or the waiting room of a doctor’s office, almost everyone, every day, hears some type of melody or song. Can you imagine your life in the absence of music? Although listening to music is a common phenomenon, most people know little about how it affects the mind and body. Music can be used to create specific atmospheres, elicit certain emotions, and promote community and bonding. By understanding the beneficial effects that music has on our minds and bodies, we can utilize its powers to facilitate healing.
One way in which music, even simple consistent rhythms, can be used to help strengthen the body and the mind is ...view middle of the document...

Dopamine has been shown to aid the immune response by activating cells that secrete antibodies. The experimental steps included identifying which song selections were high-uplifting or low-uplifting. College students that were not music majors designated the songs in either category by listening to and rating them. Non-music majors were chosen to rate the songs in order to avoid any bias that someone with advanced musical training may posses.
Additional participants were then placed under a stressful situation when experimenters asked them to complete a Stroop color test in a limited amount of time. In the Stroop color test, participants are instructed to name the color of the ink that a certain word is written in. What makes this test stressful is that the word is also a color name that is incongruent with the ink used. This allows the participants to make more mistakes, be easily confused, and create some frustration. To confirm that this task did in fact induce stress in the participants, blood was drawn from each person and levels of norepinephrine before and after the test were compared. The significantly elevated levels of norepinephrine post-Stroop test indicated that the task was perceived as stressful to the participants.
Once the subjects were in a stressful state for a specified amount of time, they were instructed to listen to high-uplifting music. After given a short break, participants were asked to complete the Stroop test again and subsequently listen to low-uplifting music for the same amount of time. The immune system response was measured before and after based on the secretion of a specific antibody within the saliva. If more antibodies are secreted, then the immune system is more active.
More antibodies were secreted when participants listened to high-uplifting music selections than when they listened to low-uplifting music. Comprehending why music produced such changes in the immune system requires understanding the relationship between the immune system and dopamine. The surge in participants’ antibodies was due to the high-uplifting song’s ability to increase the activity of the auditory, movement, and emotional regulation regions of the brain. This increase in activity allows the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Previous research has shown that dopamine helps regulate the immune system by facilitating the development of certain immunological cells that secrete antibodies (Pacheco, Prado, Barrientos, & Bernales 2009).
Evidence also indicated that the low-uplifting music might slightly suppress immune system function because the levels of antibodies were lower when they listen to low-uplifting music than when they were exposed to silence (Hirokawa & Ohira, 2003). Although all participants were able to listen to both styles of music, the results indicate that the immune system response is dependent on music preference of the participants. When a high-uplifting song is perceived as pleasurable, dopamine is...

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