What music reveals about our minds

Hearing a favorite, familiar, or “regular” song, you can instantly transport you to another point in your life, bringing back details with amazing clarity. And it’s not just a perverse feeling – there is a science behind how our mind connects music with memory.

There has long been a useful link between music and patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Repeated listening to music of personal significance has been found to improve brain adaptability in patients with early Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment.

Listening to music with special meaning stimulated neural pathways in the brain that helped them maintain higher levels of functioning, according to Michael Taut, who was a senior author of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto. This was published in the journal Alzheimer’s Disease in November.

These songs had a unique meaning, like the music that people danced to at their wedding, and led to improved memory performance on tests. The findings may confirm the inclusion of music therapy in the treatment of patients with cognitive impairment in the future.

The changes were most noticeable in the prefrontal cortex, known as the brain control center, where decision-making, moderation of social behavior, personality identification, and planning of complex mental behaviors take place.

When patients heard music that was personal to them, it included a musical neural network that connected different areas of the brain, based on MRIs performed by patients before and after listening to music. This was different from when they heard new, unfamiliar music that only triggered a certain part of the brain tuned in to listen.

The study had only 14 participants, including six musicians, and they listened to specially selected playlists for an hour a day for three weeks. But these participants are the same from an earlier study that identified neural mechanisms for preserving music-related memories in those experiencing early cognitive decline.

“Whether you’re a musician all your life or have never played an instrument, music is the key to your memory, your prefrontal cortex,” said Taut, who is the director of the Research Collaboration. in music and health science in Toronto, a professor at the Temerty School of Music and School of Medicine, in a statement. He also holds a Tier One Canada research chair in music, neurology and health. Your favorite songs, those works that are especially important to you, make it your brain. “

Research is a promising start that can lead to the use of music therapy with broader goals.

It also underscores another connection: music and our personalities.

Like-minded music lovers

Music is linked to our desire to communicate, tell stories and share values ​​with each other, and it has deep roots in early human cultures.

So it may not be surprising that as humans, we have established connections and connections with certain genres or musical styles to express ourselves and show our identity.

A recent study, which covered six continents with more than 350,000 participants, found that personality types are associated with certain musical preferences.

During the study, people from more than 50 countries themselves noted that they love 23 different music genres, and also filled out a personal questionnaire. The second assessment also involved participants listening to short music videos from 16 different genres and subgenres of Western music and ranking them. The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in February.

Music fell under five main styles. “Mellow” is associated with soft rock, R&B and contemporary adult music, including romantic lyrics and slow beats, while “intense” is louder, more aggressive music such as punk, classical rock, heavy metal and power pop. Other categories include “modern” (operative electronics, rap, Latin and Euro-pop), “sophisticated” (classical, opera, jazz) and “unpretentious” (relaxing or country genres).

The results showed a direct link between extroverts and contemporary music, good faith and unpretentious music, gentle and soft or unpretentious music. Openness was associated with soft, intense, refined and contemporary music.

This means that songs like Ed Sheeran’s “Shivers” are liked by extroverts, while nice people enjoy listening to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”. Meanwhile, outspoken people tend to love the classics of Nina Simone or David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”. And all of these types of songs have an appeal that crosses national boundaries, according to research.

How music can change the way you feel and act

“We were amazed at how these models between music and personality are spreading around the world,” said study author David Greenberg, an honorary researcher at Cambridge University and a graduate student at Bar-Ilan University.

“People can be divided by geography, language and culture, but if an introvert in one part of the world loves the same music as introverts elsewhere, it suggests that music can be a very powerful bridge. Music helps people understand each other and find common ground ”.

All of these were positive associations, but they also found a negative link between good faith and intense music.

“We thought neuroticism would most likely go one way: either preferring sad music to express their loneliness, or upbeat music to change their mood. In fact, on average, they seem to give up preference is given to more intense musical styles, which may reflect inner anxiety and frustration, ”Greenberg said.

“It was weird, but people use music differently – some can use it for catharsis, others for mood swings. We’ll look at it in more detail.”

Researchers acknowledge that musical taste is not embedded in stone and can change. But the study provides a basis for understanding how music can cross other social divisions and bring people together, Greenberg said.

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