Music and the Brain

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We have already learned about the role that hearing has in our wider cognition so it makes sense that music has its own role to play in shaping our brains and the people we are. Music doesn’t just to get you in the right mood for activities like relaxation and learning. Music itself can lead to changes in the brain to help you to relax and even make learning easier.

The success of music therapy shows how important music can be on a wide range of neurological outcomes. For this reason, we are going to look at music therapy in little more detail next.

Music Therapy

Music therapy is the professional healthcare discipline that uses music based interventions to improve a wide variety of conditions including autism, stroke, dementia, and mental health, to name but a few.

These non-musical treatment goals are supported by a qualified professional within a therapeutic mentoring relationship. There are lots of reasons why music therapy is so effective and some of the key ones are listed below.

How does music affect the brain?

How can I use music to support my brain health?

We all have our favourite artists and musical genres but we know how our brains like to receive different stimuli. Try listening to new musical styles to mix up the rhythms, sounds, and lyrics that your brain is used to.

If you’re a classical music lover, try switching to jazz. If you like rap, how about experimenting with a rock or indie playlist? This variety will improve your brain plasticity and auditory processing skills.

Go to concerts and take up as many opportunities as you can find to listen to live music. As well as the social benefits, you will also be able to challenge your auditory skills by trying to pick out the lyrics of songs you know or songs that you’ve never heard before. This is easier when you have your headphones on and you are listening from your music player but more difficult with other background noise and distractions.

Also, keep a written record of where you went, who performed and what you enjoyed about it. Note taking apps on smartphones make these things very quick and easy to do.

Doing chores around the house always seem more enjoyable when you have some good music to listen to in the background. This could give you that opportunity to try a new genre and match different styles to different daily activities. You might enjoy some dance music in the mornings to help wake you up and classical in the evenings to help you unwind.

Also, share your musical tastes with your friends and house guests. Talk about your likes and dislikes, and handover control to your friends so that they can share what they have been listening to.

Most music players now have the facility to display the lyrics of songs whilst you are listening to them. Being able to sample the words whilst you are hearing the sound will improve your auditory processing skills and may also enhance your listening experience.

Remember to sing along if your location is suitable and don’t worry about forgetting some of the words. The songwriters do this all of the time anyway!

To really maximise the brain boosting potential of music, get ready to move! Dancing or just moving to the rhythm of the song recruits more of your neural pathways so it really does become a whole brain activity.

There’s really a lot of good that will come from learning the dance routines from  music videos and posting them to your TikTok page.

Yes, it’s easier to learn to play a musical instrument in childhood. And we know the “plastic” reasons for this. However, your current training with BrainHQ and active rewiring means that now is a great time to give it a try. Who knows, you might even surprise yourself!

The training threshold and growth mindset lessons from earlier in the course will help your efforts here. Remember that your brain will benefit more in the early stages when you are probably getting frustrated with the wrong notes and chords. And if you can already play an instrument, learn how to play another one!

Examples of Musicians with Perfect Pitch

Catherine Loveday

Music probably does something unique. It stimulates the brain in a very powerful way because of our emotional connection with it.

The evidence that musical training enhances things like working memory and language is very robust.

Professor Catherine Loveday



The BrainHQ Academy

Did you know that BrainHQ has its own YouTube channel? As well as useful resources and videos about the training exercises, it also contains recordings from its Academy Webinars that are regularly hosted by the team.

BrainHQ YouTube Channel

The webinar below focussed on this lesson topic of “Music and the Brain”, was hosted by Posit Science’s CEO, Dr Henry Mahncke, and Professor Merzenich made a special guest appearance. Feel free to dive in if you want to learn more about this topic and the related BrainHQ exercises.