Music and Memory

Music has always helped people express emotions and feeling to the world, it has also helped people explore frontiers of spirituality, healing, concentration and Alzheimer’s

One of my favorite research topic of 2015 was about the effect music has on a person’s memory. It fascinated me so much that I started reading medical papers and research about what exactly happens in the human brain while listening to music and can it be helpful to us in some or the other way.

Guess what Music can actually help us in a lot of ways, and that does not include moving on after a breakup ūüėČ but on a serious note, it helps us focus, heal, study and in some cases reduce the effects of dementia. Don’t believe me? Stick around for a while and I will prove that to you.

Music, as we all know, is something which has always been closer to our hearts, remember the time when your feet started moving or your fingers started tapping just after hearing your favorite song on the internet. Well it does have a scientific explanation to it and it has to do a lot with neuroscience, It’s not that boring trust me I will try to explain it in simple words.

The image on the left is well an edited picture of your brain and on the right is an edited picture of neurons which reside within your brain. To be precise they are the building blocks of your Nervous system which include your brain. And for those of who are not aware neurons form a major portion of your brain, you have as many as 100 billion (100,000,000,000) neurons in your brain right now (that is a lot!!). These neurons serve as a messenger in your body and transmit and receive impulses in the form of electricity via talking to adjacent neurons gathering data from all organs and submitting it to the brain for further processing.

So the talking or communication between two neurons is called neural pathway which is an important concept to understand how music helps patients with dementia to remember memories from the past. So when you listen to your favorite music at a party or while studying to dance or focus the type of music you listen to have a big effect on these neurons which helps you in a certain way to dance like a wild party animal or to study long hours at the library.

Ever wondered your brain getting with millions of neurons while listening to a beautiful symphony or Rock song. Well, now you know how your brain is responding the next time you listen to your favorite beats, below-shown diagram is an MRI image of the same.

brain on music
Source: Soundmattersblog.com Brain on Music

Coming to the next part of our blog, how is music helping people with dementia and Alzheimers. There is an active research going on at Alzheimer’s foundation of America,¬†Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging of Hunter College, CUNY, and many other medical institutes. There are dedicated websites which are completely focused on this research some of which are Music&Memory,¬†Alzheimer’s foundation of America, Brain Journal¬†and much more.
I also came across a documentary on Netflix called ‘Alive Inside‘ which is completely related to the topic we are discussing, and it’s so well directed that critics have appreciated that documentary for a long time. In the film, there are several cases which have been shown beautifully how patients with Alzheimer’s respond to music giving their loved ones a hope to communicate and connect with them.

Watch an excerpt from the Movie ‘Alive Inside’ here.

So how does music do it? How is it helping people remember stuff from their past who normally cannot even recognize their own family members?
According to¬†Alzheimer’s foundation of America its because:

This happens because rhythmic and other well-rehearsed responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing. They are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. A person’s ability to engage in music, particularly rhythm playing and singing, remains intact late into the disease process because, again, these activities do not mandate cognitive functioning for success.

src : Alzheimers foundation of America website

Music has always been an important part of humans life since ages it has been used to heal from within, or to go to a complete state of relaxation while doing meditation or hypnotherapy or towards inducing the brain in a trance state after consumption of Ayahuasca which is a brew made by Shamans which after consuming can show you a completely different universe within your mind.

So take out your headphones and lit your neurons on fire!!
If there are any questions related to the topic please comment below or email me at rohanshirodkar29@gmail.com. I will surely answer all your questions.