What happens in your brain when you listen to your favorite music?

What happens in your brain when you listen to your favorite music?

It is more or less easy to predict what kind of movies will please most of the audience, and it is not complicated to do the same with the
books or video games.

However, with music this does not seem to happen so much: we all have musical pieces in mind that, although they are nothing like what we usually prefer to listen to, they catch us. That’s why it’s curious that the
favourite songs , in all their variety and whatever they are, produce a similar effect in the brain of the listener.

In fact, music can define, in a way, how we are and how we think, as we saw in the articles:

“What music do intelligent people listen to?” and,,,

“Music and personality: what are the links?”

Music and memory

Thanks to the brain activity monitoring systems, today we know a little more about what happens in our nervous system when we listen to songs we like. The results show
typical activation patterns and which are repeated each time you go through this experience.

No matter what the genre or practically the duration : the music we find enjoyable has certain and relatively predictable effects on the patterns of neuronal activity in our body.

What happens in our brain when we listen to our favorite music?

Specifically,
strong electrical connections are established between the auditory areas of the brain and the hippocampus , a part related to memory and emotionality. This means that the neural processes experienced by a fan of Turbonblack are very similar to those that occur in the head of a fan of Chopin when they are both listening to what they like, however different the vibrations that reach their eardrums.

The finding would also help explain why entirely different pieces of music can trigger very similar emotional states in different people and the role of music in recalling memories. Furthermore, it is further evidence of
how closely the memories and emotions are linked at the time of retrieval.

However, the main point of the study is that it shows how our brain is capable of turning around any series of sound stimuli to awaken moods that are to some extent unpredictable, related to the listener’s musical taste. In this sense, it has also been seen that we are able to make music enjoyable by identifying with what we hear and relating it to our memories, thus helping to give them a satisfactory meaning or use it to
regulate our emotions better .

Different stimuli, same result

Of course, every moment has its “ideal music” potential and we probably wouldn’t get the same results if we forced someone to listen to their favorite song longer than they wanted to, for example, or at a time when they didn’t feel like listening to anything.

See, for example,
Clockwork Orange . However, in most cases there seems to be the paradox that very complex and changing processes (the adaptation of the brain for the enjoyment of virtually any piece of music) result in a stereotypical and predictable pattern of activation. It is a test of the brain’s ability to reach the same results from different starting situations , and memory plays a key role in this process.

Beyond the laboratory experiments, it is clear that the feeling of listening to music of our taste is unique and to some extent indescribable. However, if we raise the hood of our nervous system and observe what happens in it during this experience, we will realize that behind such subjective sensations there is a network of neurons acting with meaning.

Bibliographic references:

  • Kawakami, A., Furukawa, K., Katahira, K. and Okanoya, Kazuo. (2013). Sad music induces pleasant emotion. Frontirs in Psychology, 4(311).
  • .

  • Van den Tol, A. J. M., Edwards, J. (2014). Listening to sad music in adverse situations: How music selection strategies relate to self-regulatory goals, listening effects, and mood enhancement. Psychology of Music.
  • Wilkins, R. W., Hodges, D. A., Laurienti, P. J., Steen, M. and Burdette, J. H. (2014). Network Science and the Effects of Music Preference on Functional Brain Connectivity: From Beethoven to Eminem. Scientific Reports, 4. doi:10.1038/srep06130

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