Music has the power to enhance a sense of wellbeing

Professor Alan Harvey, a neuroscientist and musician, has long been fascinated by the power of music upon our emotions and memories.  Biologically, music can also effect heart rate and blood pressure, and give goosebumps and spine-tingling chills.  The use of music has the potential to alter the way we view events – film music is a prime example of this. 

Dopamine is released during music performing, and is also present in the areas of motivation, attention and movement. Performing social tasks involving empathy and understanding activate the same parts of the brain as are used during listening to pleasurable music. Levels of oxytocin are raised during choral singing. Oxytocin is also related to the areas of empathy, trust and relationship building.  Professor Harvey states that music is a social glue that enhances a sense of wellbeing.

Music can help unlock memories in people with dementia, and can be used in the treatment of certain developmental disorders, such as autism. It can be used in rehabilitation therapies to improve mood and motor performance in patients who have suffered a stroke or a brain injury, or in conditions like Parkinson’s Disease.

Professor Harvey believes that the power of music is most significant in the field of education.  It impacts positively upon the social and cognitive development of children, and these effects are long-lasting.  Better hearing, better motor skills, improved memory, better verbal and literacy skills, even better mathematical skills. When involved in music making, there is a positive impact upon the way children interact on the social level.

Music is a social communication system that binds people together, making it easier to work cohesively. In Professor Harvey’s words, the power of music can “help drive us towards a more cooperative society and a far more connected world”.

Professor Harvey’s TedX talk, “Your Brain on Music”, can be viewed below.

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