Music: like drugs for your brain?

Lately, as I have said, I have been enjoying a lot of Swing Music to help me get through the shorter, sometimes gloomy days of winter.  Hence, I have been spending a lot of time with this guy…


For the uninitiated this is Benny Goodman, and he is the “King of Swing!”  😉

This winter I have discovered that the music he and others from his era have produced helps me to feel invigorated.  When I need to get things done, then I set my Pandora service to the “Benny Goodman” station I have created and let it play in the background.   Soon I will  find my toes tapping, and I’m out of my chair getting things done about the house.

I thought perhaps it was my imagination, this feeling I get from listening to Swing Music, but then I found this little video this morning.

I was stunned!  I had no idea that music could so profoundly effect the brain, and further, that it could be addictive!

Not so long ago, I read an article about a man named Henry who had lived in a nursing home for about ten years.  He had become totally unresponsive to the world around him.  However, when a caregiver started playing his favorite music for him he became lucid and began to interact with those around him.   It was amazing to see him perk up, and the effects of the music lasted for some time afterwards!

You may see Henry’s video here, and I highly recommend that you do, because it is so surprising and uplifting!

You may also read more about music stimulation research HERE.

As well, according to Elena Mannes, in her book The Scientific Power of Music: Pioneering Discoveries in the New Science of Song, it seems we all have a proclivity for melody and rhythm.  It also seems that on hearing music we like, our brain wants more!

To paraphrase the above studies:

Just listening to music causes our brain release dopamine, which stimulates our neurons, and thus produces a feeling of well-being, and because our brain likes it when we feel good it therefore makes us want more.  This is what happens when you use cocaine, by the way, though music’s dopamine production is not so intense.  Nevertheless, your brain is set up to take in the sounds of music and reward your neurons with pleasure induced by the natural chemical dopamine.

I will be looking for Elena Mannes book in the library.  I noted in the preview on Amazon, that she has done extensive research on the subject and has an extensive bibliography to show for it.  Her work is in parts quite technical, but I believe it will be an interesting read.

Does music have an effect you?

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliation with,  nor do I receive any monetary benefits from Amazon, Pandora Music, or the author Elena Mannes.   I just happen to enjoy and appreciate them!

NOTE:  The Daily Post posed the topic “Musical” on 1/26/13 and I had recently written this on the 21st.  I hope this is not cheating to link it to the topic!  If it is, then I am sure someone in the crowd will soundly tell me off!  😉

33 thoughts on “Music: like drugs for your brain?

  1. petspeopleandlife says:

    Great post. Music is indeed therapy. Nursing homes don’t use it in the way that is most beneficial for the clients. Should be used more but most nursing homes that I am aware of do not do enough of any kind of therapy.

  2. shoreacres says:

    I have specific kinds of music I enjoy at different times. There’s “road music”, for example – Western Swing, Southern Rock, certain artists like Bob Seger. Late at night I often like Gregorian chant, early music, or artists like Sting and Enya. Cajun, string bands and blues are good for housework, etc.

    One thing I can’t do is listen to music with lyrics when I’m writing. I start listening and lose my train of thought. And complex music, like orchestral, doesn’t do it for me either. Quiet is better.

    Love Benny Goodman – I was a clarinet player for one thing, but I love dancing Swing, eastern or western.

    • Lynda says:

      Not a dancer, never had enough dedication to be good with an instrument, but I used to be able to sing! (Those nasty Camels packed up my voice and dragged it through the Sahara…) However, we do have many common music interests, Linda!

  3. Littlesundog says:

    I haven’t listened to music much since I began doing wildlife rehabilitation. Animals like a quiet world and I guess I got used to that. Although, I do love the Sinatra era music when I’m working in the kitchen… so romantic and happy!

    • Lynda says:

      I agree, Lori, Sinatra is great music!

      Truth to tell, in the spring and summer I used to be more in tune with mother nature, and then I didn’t have time for music. I spent a lot of time outside and in the garden. But winter has always been hard for me, and worse here than when we lived in California.

      I am grateful for music in winter…

      And suddenly it occurs to me that I might try music as a way to get me outside more! Something to look forward to trying this spring? Or maybe I will get myself an Ipod and work on it sooner? Hmmm…

  4. Mary Strong-Spaid says:

    Absolutely. All things (seen and unseen) are in vibration. Sound (music) is the mediary between thought and form.
    I sang with the Wasington Opera for 13 years, and it was wonderful to be so close to the powerful sounds of the National Symphony Orchestra. Now I work for the Visiting Angels, and I bring music wherever I go.
    2 great books that I like—The Secret Power of Music by David Tame
    and The Mysticism of Sound and Music by Hazrat Inayat Kahn.

    • Lynda says:

      You are a woman of many talents, Mary! I’m so glad that we’re getting to know one another. I will have to look these up and add them to my list of reads for the winter. Thank you!

  5. Connie Cunningham says:

    The only music I can listen to while working on landscape designs is Indian Sitar music. Otherwise Western music intrudes too much with patterns of sound. Indian music allows me to create without it interfering. Trust me, lol…. out here, they looked at me suspiciously when entering in to my house with Indian music playing.

    I used to play my mom Big Band music from her youth and it would instantly change her mood and being, taking her somewhere else. Now I cant listen to it without crying…. Im a mush.

    • Lynda says:

      I totally understand about the crying. Music and scent are deeply emotional. Both can instantly carry you off down memory lane… This is a good thing, but as you say can make you cry.

      (I’m not certain who “they” are, but they need to get over themselves.) 😉

    • Lynda says:

      I do too, Annie! Every time I watch it I get misty-eyed. Funny that you should mention scents and smells. I was just telling Connie that in my reply to her. The are very powerful triggers of memory and emotion!

  6. Steve Schwartzman says:

    I work mostly in silence these days. If I have music playing it can interfere with my thoughts, or else the thoughts will win out and periods go by when I haven’t heard the music at all and couldn’t even tell you what had been playing.

    An interesting question is why people like the kinds of music they like and dislike other kinds. I’m fond of many kinds of classical music, but I know that only a small minority of people share that fondness. On the other hand, for the last few decades (alas!) rap has dominated the music scene, but for me the phrase rap music is an oxymoron, with emphasis on the last part of the word.

    You might say I’m opinionated, but people with opposite preferences are just as opinionated. I think we all are.

    • Lynda says:

      I heard this somewhere:
      “When we grew up we shared the music of your youth and told our children how great it all was. Yet, somehow I have a hard time imagining kids these days growing up and sharing rap with their kids.”


      I like many types of music. I am partial to violin, because my grandfather from the hills in Kentucky played fiddle. I assume my love for Bluegrass came from those roots. I love the old Big Bands, and Doo-Wop because my parents listened to it when I was growing up. I have no explanation for my liking DEVO, but they are quirky for sure, and I believe my only excuse for Zappa was because his lyrics made my mother’s face go pale (although I do think he had a musical gift when he kept his mouth shut and just wrote and played). I love jazz, both the classic and much of the new. (I once had an autistic 2nd grader tell me, “You get Jazz when you take the notes and squeeze them.” He was a genius. I’m certain of it.) I would tell you that I am not into Country and Western music, yet I do love Johnny Cash! The standard list of faves from my (our?) era would be: the Beetles, Judy Collins, Led Zepplin, Dylan, Cream, Joe Cocker, Country Joe and the Fish (true protest fare), Janis Joplin (because mom hated her too), Jimi Hendrix, and Jefferson Airplane. Somewhere along the way, I grew fond of “Long-Hair” music though I couldn’t tell you when it happened, and although he isn’t really Long-Hair, I do adore Debussy. When I can’t sleep he can totally put my mind at peace. To be sure, there is more, but I won’t go on…

      To reiterate: I can unequivocally tell you that I don’t like RAP, and that I don’t want to hear whining about your lost dog, or the tears in your ears!

      Ahem. Well now, that was a mouthful. 😉

      • Steve Schwartzman says:

        ““When we grew up we shared the music of your youth and told our children how great it all was. Yet, somehow I have a hard time imagining kids these days growing up and sharing rap with their kids.”

        I’ve had exactly the same thought!

        Doo-wop, on the other hand, I heard on the radio when I was a kid and still enjoy hearing again from time to time, as when PBS pitches its fundraising music programs to people with gray hair (like me) at least twice a year. I’ll admit that most of the lyrics were simplistic, but there was usually a pretty melody—and a different one each time, unlike rap, which confounds me by seeming to have no real tune and only one rhythm, which has been repeated in thousands of so-called songs.

  7. chatou11 says:

    Very interesting this post Lynda. I don’t worry we won’t be addict of Benny Goodman, we love him and we appreciate his music but this kind of music cannot hurt our brain. I suppose the young generation is addict to hard rock or bang bang music. In some farms in France, cows are listening to sweet music and give more milk!

    • Lynda says:

      Yes, good music is good for our brain, and our outlook on life, Chantal! I think I remember reading about the cows and music’s influence on milk production. Isn’t it wonderful? 🙂

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