Is Music Good for Brain Health?

Happy senior woman with closed eyes wearing headphones and singing

In a word, yes. Listening to music, playing music, dancing to music… all turn the brain on, providing a full brain workout.
According to a new report from the AARP-founded Global Council on Brain Health, music stimulates multiple areas of the brain including those responsible for memory, movement and mood.

“Nothing activates the brain like music,” says Jonathan Burdette, a contributor to the AARP report and professor of neuroradiology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Music has the capacity to get multiple parts of the brain working together. “All that brain synchronicity provides some serious health benefits.”
Researchers have found that music can:

Improve sleep
Sharpen memory
Reduce stress, and
Stimulate thinking skills

That’s because when we hear music, the sound waves are translated into nerve impulses that travel to several areas of the brain. These areas include those that release dopamine, which plays a role in pleasure. That’s why, when you hear music, — no matter what type — it makes you feel better.

A 2020 AARP survey of more than 3,100 adults found that a higher percentage of people who engage in music self-rate aspects of their quality of life and happiness as excellent or very good. They also report lower average levels of anxiety and depression.

Even better, “music facilitates social interactions — another advantage for the brain. So when adults sing and dance, or perform together, they experience a pronounced feeling of less loneliness and a better quality of life, compared with adults who don’t,” says Julene Johnson, a professor at the Institute for Health and Aging at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Along with improving mood, music encourages movement — another key component to brain health. Listening to music during a workout can be an enjoyable way to make exercise seem easier and enjoy the workout more. We are learning that music has brain healing powers music is now being used to help adults who suffer a stroke and lose their ability to speak. Even when they can’t speak, they can often still sing. Adults with Parkinson’s disease may struggle to walk, but music and dance can strengthen their muscle movement and help improve gait.

How can you use music to improve every day brain health? INDY Neurofeedback owner Ruth Just weighs in. “At our clinic, we play music at specific frequencies at our clinic that correlate with clients’ neurofeedback to enhance the benefit of their sessions.”

Here are 5 Ways to use music to sharpen your brain from AARP’s Global council on Brain Health:
Listen to music that comforts you or evokes positive memories
Try listening to unfamiliar songs and new types of music to stimulate your brain
Use relaxing background music to help you relax at the end of a hectic day
Try turning on upbeat background music when you need an energy or creativity boost
Be sure to have your hearing checked. Maintaining clear hearing is essential for maintaining cognitive function – and making listening to music more enjoyable.

At INDY Neurofeedback, we can help you maximize your brain function and improve the quality of your day-to-day life. How can we help you? Let’s talk.