Music and the Neurotransmitters who love it

July 27, 2009

Part II: Effects on the brain
Music’s uncanny influence on spatial reasoning was one of the key correlations that began the work to develop an understanding of music’s effect on the brain. Spatial reasoning functions are located in the right hemisphere of the brain. Spatial reasoning is a function processed and elicited in the right hemisphere of the brain. The right brain is categorized by emotion, id-based thinking, feeling, intuition, impetuousness, and creativity. This hemisphere is often marginalized in Western culture and relegated to dreams in most individuals. The left hemisphere is categorized by logic, reality, mathematics, language, and strategy. Music is also attributed to right brain functions because it stimulates the functions of the right brain more than the left brain.

Music can place the brain in an optimal arousal mode (Schellenberg, 2005). Music can effect emotion (Sutton and Lowis, 2008). This happens on a psychological and physiological level. Much in the same way some narcotics mimic the neuronal patterns of some neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and endorphins, to mimic their pleasurable sensations (Pert, 2000), music effects spatial reasoning by mimicking the same firing pathways neurons undergo when we successfully concentrate and focus (Campbell, 2001, 1997). This is why increased concentrating and focus occurs in close proximity of listening for adults. The younger the individual, the longer the effect last because their brains are at the start of creating familiar firing pathways. In addition, their cells divide more often creating the potential to create more daughter cells with receptors primed to perpetuate the pathway. Explained in part by the idea of association and the Hebbian theory of synaptic activity and efficiency which is often summarized as “the cells that fire together, wire together”. Sutton and Lowis suggest that music is a communicator that is adept at communicating emotion. In a 2005 experiment conducted by E. Glenn Schellenberg he found that music effects spatial reasoning in part by arousing the mind of the participant. By putting the brain in an optimal state of arousal, this attributed to increased performance. He also attributed increased performance in spatial reasoning to changes in mood directly linked to the major (cheerful sounding), up tempo Mozart selections. Therefore, arousal primes the brain to do more work, and music works as a exercise to strengthen the brain.

References available in Part VI

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