Mrs. S couldn’t talk, but she sure could sing. I met her when I was an intern in the neurology department. She had a suffered a stroke which destroyed critical pathways on the left side of the brain – the part that controls speech. And yet, while the stroke had left her speechless, it didn’t stop her from belting out “Happy Birthday.”
This was not news to neurologists, though. For over a century, this phenomenon has been observed in stroke patients with left side brain damage. What is newer is the finding that “singing therapy” can help some of these patients learn to speak again.
In addition to helping stroke victims, the health benefits of listening to music abound:
Music is Powerful
When we listen to our favorite songs, dopamine is released by two distinct areas of the brain—one involved with intense pleasure and the other involved with anticipation. This combination may explain why we love music so much.
Music is Social
“When people get together and hear the same music—such as in a concert hall—it tends to make their brains synch up in rhythmic ways, inducing a shared emotional experience,” reported music psychologist Ed Large after studying the effects of musical rhythms on participants.
Music Helps Prevent the Flu
Listening to soothing music has been shown to increase antibodies important for immunity.
Music Enhances Memory
“If I asked you to tell me a memory from high school, you would be able to tell me a memory,” says Salimpoor. “But, if you listened to a piece of music from high school, you would actually feel the emotions.”
Music is Physical
It enhances a workout and has been shown to increase physical performance.
Music Reduces Stress and Anxiety
One study shows music is even more effective than medication in reducing anxiety in patients before surgery.
Music Makes us Happy
Music improves mood. Even sad music has been shown to help people feel better.
Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology and author of “How the Mind Works,” captures the essence of music’s effect on our bodies and mind:
“I suspect music is auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of… our mental faculties.”