We have all experienced that feeling at the end of a long day when your favourite song can lift your mood and have you dancing around your bedroom, putting your hands in the air and waving them around like you just don’t care.

NOLWAZI MNGADI

We have all experienced that feeling at the end of a long day when your favourite song can lift your mood and have you dancing around your bedroom, putting your hands in the air and waving them around like you just don’t care.

Scientists and ordinary people alike have known the positive effects of music on the human body for decades.

Music not only affects the brain but the body as a whole. The effects, however, are not always good. Musicologist, Julius Portnoy, found that, among other things, music can affect mood, metabolic rates and even digestion.

Classical, soothing music generally affects the human body in a positive way, while heavier music like rock or rap tends to have negative effects. Studies demonstrating this effect have been done on plants where soothing classical music was played to one group, and loud hard rock music played to another.

The group to which the classical music was played grew quickly, whereas plants in the hard rock group died or had stunted growth.This is not to say that metal-heads or hard rockers will have stunted growth or will not develop correctly. Each human brain works differently, and just as with many things in life, one man’s Marilyn Manson is another man’s Beethoven.

One of the biggest neurological breakthroughs with regards to music has been the power of music on the human memory. Baroque music and the music of Mozart have the ability to activate both the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

The optimal beat pattern for this to be achieved is 60 beats per minute. When both sides of the brain are activated, the learning and retention of information is maximised. Bulgarian scientist, Dr George Lazanov, conducted a study where he hypothesised that, using baroque music, he could teach a foreign language to students in a fraction of the time it would normally take.

Students who learned a foreign language while listening to baroque music were able to learn up to 1000 words and phrases in one day. His students had an average retention rate of 92%, and the foreign languages taught could be learned with 85-100% efficiency.

According to a Pennsylvania State University study, listening to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Piano’s in D Major before a test is one way that students can improve results.

Music has also been used in the medical field to help addicts. According to Portnoy, 30 minutes of classical music can be equivalent to a dose of Valium. Music, like drugs, affects chemicals, called neurotransmitters, in the brain. Unlike music however, drugs convince the brain to stop making the chemicals it needs.

This is why, when one stops taking drugs, the brain stops functioning correctly and the user needs more drugs in order to function normally again. When music is used as a treatment for Music: food for thoughtdrug addicts, it is able to stimulate the production of some of the chemicals which were destroyed by the use of drugs.

This could limit cases where legal drugs are used to treat addiction to other drugs.Everyone is destined to spend approximately 1,2 years on hold. Most people with a cell phone have had to sit through torturous minutes of Mambo Number Five or something similar while waiting for their call to be answered.

Phone companies play this music in order to reduce the amount of time you think you are waiting for your call to bea nswered. James Kellaris, a marketing professor at the University of Cincinnati says, “When shoppers are exposed to music in a store, sales resistance decreases.”

The musical distraction therefore reduces customers’ willingness to make rational decisions and makes them less resistant to long waits on hold or seemingly endless queues in supermarkets.

While most people may think of musicians as narcissistic creatures, a study in the European Journal of Neuroscience found that teenagers and adults who are trained musicians are better able to read the emotional cues of others.

Musicians are able to do this because they can process emotion in sound. They are therefore able to have more effective human interaction and relationships because their understanding of human emotions increases their emotional intelligence.

Music is one of the few ways in which people all around the world are able to communicate and understand each other on a deeper emotional level. Whether a person lives in Japan, Norway or Kenya, the right piece of music could elicit a similar response in all of them. In the words of Victor Hugo, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and cannot remain silent.”

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