The second you push “play”, lightning-fast sound waves pass through your eardrums and jiggle the bones of your inner ears. Those vibrations then trigger nerve signals, which speed through your brain, setting off a series of reactions that could:
Boost your mood
The amygdala, which acts as a storehouse of emotions in the brain, quickly analyses chords and tones to determine whether the music appeals to you – and just how passionate your response will be. If you dig the beat, your nucleus accumbens, a major player in the brain’s reward system, releases the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. (Yep, the same one involved in all kinds of pleasure rushes.)
Nerve cells that ﬁ re together, wire together – so the next time you play this tune, your brain may call up what you were doing and how you were feeling when you heard it last. It’s a powerful connection: when you’re feeling blue, cue up a tune from a happier time.
Music is an intellectual experience, so in order to understand and appreciate its complexity, you need to use your noggin. Speciﬁcally, your prefrontal cortex, the brain’s centre for executive thought. This may be why listening to music is often linked to better brain function.
Hearing mellow music might help your body dial down the production of stress hormones, like cortisol or epinephrine. (Over time, high levels of these can harm your health.) Calming tunes, like you’d hear at a beauty spa, might also prompt a slowing of your heart rate or a deepening of your breathing.
Relaxing sounds might increase your body’s production of growth hormone, which, in turn, promotes a healthy metabolism. This can also help keep dangerous inﬂammation in check – crucial for a healthy immune system.
Calm pain perception
All types of music seem to have an in-the-moment crushing effect on pain and anxiety. So if you’re in the dentist’s chair dreading some drill work, power up your favourite playlist.