The Power of Music

Ellise Huston, Staff Writer

Music has been a constant throughout human history. It has power over us that is not always easy to explain, but it has always been an important aspect of our lives. 

One power music has is to trigger memories. Let’s say you are listening to music on shuffle, and a song starts to play that you listened to over summer. You can be automatically transported back to those warm, sunny days, even if it is in the dead of winter. Not only can music bring you back to a different time, but it can also make you think of a certain person. If you listen to the songs while thinking of someone or to a song that they showed you, it may ultimately remind you of them, even much later. Music is often accompanied by memories. 

The other power music has is the power to trigger feelings and affect mood. Recent studies have shown that when a song that we enjoy plays, it triggers increased blood flow to the legs (which, interestingly, is one reason people are often compelled to dance while listening) and it releases more dopamine from the brain. Dopamine is the chemical typically released as a response to a pleasurable occurrence, such as a hug, but when listening to music as well. Researchers also found that while listening to music that a person enjoys, when waiting for the swells of the music, it creates an “anticipatory effect” that increases excitement in the brain. Typically, upbeat songs can affect the mood of the person listening to them, making them happier overall. Studies have also shown that upbeat music can increase productivity and can even provide the person with more energy. The opposite occurs when slow, sad songs are played. During these types of songs, the person’s mood can change to more sorrowful, even if the person was previously in a good mood. It can have a calming effect as well, sometimes even making the subject sleepy. 

Clearly, music is known to increase productivity and energy. It is also said to decrease stress, as well as increase one’s ability to remember facts. Music is one of the few activities that stimulates the entire brain. For these reasons, experts recommend listening to music while completing homework or studying for tests. This is certainly something to consider as we head into finals week.