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“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.”

-Ludwig Van Beethoven

A large body of empirical evidence exists regarding connections between music and the mind and body. With music as the bridge between art and science, here are a few highlights from biomedical, neurophysiological, psychological, and educational research:

Music has been associated with the production of various brain wave states.

When listening to and participating in music, there is a positive chemical change in the brain as endorphins are released.

Music and pain are processed along the same neural pathways. Stronger stimuli may diminish the intensity of the weaker stimuli. Music can reduce levels of sympathetic nervous system arousal, changing a patient’s perception of pain and reducing sensory deprivation.

Music therapy has been proven to improve respiration, lower blood pressure, improve cardiac output, reduce heart rate, and relax muscle tension.

Music therapy can help relieve pain, reduce stress and anxiety, promote relaxation, influence mood, and stimulate movement.

Sound may vibrate some part of the body that requires attention.

Group drumming has been correlated to demonstrated statistically significant positive cell-mediated immune system changes.

Music isn't only an ancient social phenomenon; it also has a biological and neurological basis. It is hypothesized that music is hard-wired into the human brain and that it has existed from the early days of humankind, possibly even predating language.

Music can actively integrate mind and body, affecting emotional response, movement and sensory input. This results in the modification of neurological pathways in the brain, facilitating changes in behavior. A change in one’s nervous system directly affects the ability to learn, adapt and grow.

Music stimulates all of the senses and involves individuals at many levels, which facilitates developmental skills.

In the first years of life, the brain is undergoing rapid physical development. Studies show participation in music can positively influence that process, with ramifications that last a lifetime.

When children begin school, the development of their mental capacities continues, while they begin to experience larger social interactions and the demands of schoolwork. Music can play an important role in this stage of life.

Kids who study music are higher academic achievers in proportional math and fractions, language arts/reading/verbal skills, science, and spatial-temporal (logic/problem-solving) skills. They also have higher self-esteem, stronger emotional health, and better social, leadership and presentation skills.

The link between music and brain function persists throughout adult life. Even when the brain stops growing, it never stops learning; and when injury strikes, music can help on the road to recovery.

Active music making has been correlated with measurable improvements in immune system function and overall human well-being—especially in older people. Loneliness, depression and even the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease have been shown to respond positively to music.

The brain processes music in both hemispheres and can therefore stimulate cognitive functioning and remediation of speech/language skills.

Music is highly motivating (“stimulative”), yet it is also calming and relaxing (“sedative”).

Many parallels exist between speech and singing; rhythm and motor behavior; musical mnemonics and note memorization; and overall ability of preferred music to enhance mood, attention and behavior to optimize an individual’s ability to learn and interact.

New research shows that musicians’ brains are highly developed in a way that makes the musicians alert, interested in learning, disposed to see the whole picture, calm, and playful.

For further information on music research as it relates to the mind and body, visit the Links page.

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