Everyone likes music, but many people are not exactly sure how it affects their brain. Yes, listening to a sad song after a break-up is as satisfying as listening to a summer hit when in a nightclub. It’s just satisfying in a totally different way.
Music actually affects lots of different areas of the brain! You use a different part of your brain to perceive sound, then another one to emotionally react to music and a further one to tap your foot to it. You use a different area to look at someone performing music, but you use the same area to read music yourself.
When you listen to music, your brain releases dopamine.
Dopamine is that chemical that makes you happy, whether you just made a new friend, went on a good date or ate a french fry. How much dopamine you get depends on how well you know the source of the dopamine – which is to say, if you stumble across an awesome new song, more dopamine will be released than the first time you heard it.
It doesn’t just make you happy, though.
Listening to music can help you exercise, since your brain will be distracted from the fact that you are tired. The music that you listen to may also affect how you perceive your environment.
If you want to improve your skills, you should learn an instrument.
It wouldn’t just make you better at playing that particular instrument, it can help your fine motor skills, your reasoning skills and even your math skills. In fact, researchers believe that playing an instrument actually strengthens the link between the left and right hemisphere of the brain. That means that musicians may be better problem solvers. They may also have better memories and be able to think both creatively and cognitively faster than other people, and indeed, other artists.
If you want to increase not just your enjoyment but your cognitive skills, you may want to pick up an instrument. You can also find more about what neuroscientists are currently discovering about music and the people who play music here.