Recently, I’ve been doing a fair amount of studying due to the quickly approaching finals. I go downtown, make my way to a campus study spot, put headphones on, and get to work. I look up to view the people around me and notice something we all have in common: we’re listening to music. This made me wonder… is there a deeper reason why so many students listen to music while working? Turns out there is, and it has all to do with our brains and how they function.
As you might know, sound travels as soundwaves. When these hit our eardrums, the vibrations are turned into electrical signals by the tens of thousands of nerve endings in our ears. These signals then travel to the brain which has to do a lot of work to interpret them. This is where the magic happens. Music is great for studying because it turns on parts of the brain that might have been dormant. It also has different effects in each part of the brain. For example, when you listen to music, the nucleus accumbens releases dopamine. Nucleus accumbensis the part of your brain responsible for turning motivation into action. In fact, music is a form of treatment for ADHD, which is partly characterized by lack of dopamine, because of its ability to release it. Dopamine is so important because it makes you happy. This improves creativity by broadening your mindset and increasing the desire to explore. Music also stimulates the secretion of adrenaline, serotonin, and other hormones responsible for upping levels of energy and mental focus. Plants have even been shown to have better growth when exposed to classical music!
Music can and should be used to help your brain promote and sustain productivity. The only question is what type of music to listen to. Different types of music do different things, so you can pick and choose the genre for what you want it to do. Listening to music you might have listened to long ago can help bring back memories. Listening to happy music increases divergent thinking. In terms of studying, though, there are some types that rise above the rest. Anything with no lyrics works best as to not distract you with meanings. Slow blues and jazz are great for this reason, and because they enhance alertness and creativity as the tune changes unexpectedly. However, classical music is, in my opinion, the best. It has all of the positive effects previously mentioned, plus a decrease in stress due to the calming effect of it. Generally, no matter what music, it is important to keep the volume at the right level so it doesn’t drown your thoughts, but it still blocks background noise.
The human brain, in some sense, is an enigma. There are tons of ins and outs to enhance its performance, and music is one of them. So next time you find yourself studying, try it out. Put on some tunes, and feel the power for yourself.