The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

Psychology of music

How it affects the brain

Music is all around us, whether you listen to the radio when you are driving to work, use it to help focus and study, or simply listen to relax after a hard day’s work. Music is integrated into everyone’s lives and we do not always realize that. Song melodies are often used to portray lyrics and communicate thoughts and feelings. Writers use composition, tones, tempos, and lyrics to express themselves in a way the listener can understand and connect to.

Unlike languages where you have to learn and understand everything that is written or spoken, music is a universal language that can connect us. It does not matter where you are from, what you experienced, or what your opinions are. Music connects us together with the ability to empathetically understand with one another.

These soundwaves also affect our brains in a way we would not normally think of. Listening to music can increase our blood flow. These melodies cause the inner lining of tissue, located in the ear, to dilate and expand in blood vessels. The noises also affect the vagus nerve, located in the ear drum, that responds to musical vibrations. Once triggered, this nerve can relax the body and lower blood pressure. Once our ears hear the music, it sends a signal to the limbic system in our brain. This system controls our movement, how we process and understand emotions, as well as memory. 

This is why when you listen to sad music, it can evoke sad feelings or memories associated with strong emotions. Evoking strong emotions associated with certain songs or melodies can connect this pathway in the limbic system and in turn, make you feel. Once these vibrations travel into the ear canal it triggers the eardrum and transmits an electrical signal that travels through the auditory nerve to the brain stem, where it creates the music we hear.

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As we listen to music, our brain uses past experiences to predict how the music will pan out based on what we have already heard. When these predictions are false, it can create a sense of surprise in the brain and can cause strong emotional reactions that can produce goosebumps. Just like in a movie theater, the soundtrack of the movie can heavily manipulate how you perceive certain scenes. 

These physical chills are caused by dopamine release. Right before the special climax of the song, your body can predict this moment and give you chills as a result of dopamine release. The release of dopamine in your brain acts as a reward to a stimulating action or thought process. In turn, these highs from music can convince you to continue listening to music that evokes a similar reaction.

Music can also help relax and reduce stress. Slower music can quiet your mind and relax your muscles causing you to release stress and calm down. Faster music with higher pitches and bright harmonicas can make us feel energized or pumped up in order to do things. This is why listening to music when working out helps improve the quality and efficiency of exercise. 

Not only does it affect our brain, but it affects the way we think and feel about things when we listen to music. We use music as a way to express creativity, regulate our emotions, and connect with others. 

For more information go to or,that%20generate%20and%20control%20emotions.&text=The%20limbic%20system%2C%20which%20is,when%20our%20ears%20perceive%20music.


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