Music Therapy

Does music really affect the brain? The answer is yes, absolutely.  Studies have been done that prove that music has an amazing power over the human mind. The process of music entering the brain is complex and has several steps.  It all begins with microscopic air molecules vibrating to create what we call music. The molecules connect with the ear drum, which then sends a signal to the auditory cortex (located in the brain).  The auditory cortex then determines the pitch and volume.  However, the auditory cortex is not alone in assessing the sound that enters the ear.  The prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and parts of the temporal lobe are in charge of surveying the tone of the sound (  Understanding how the brain processes music opens up so many possibilities in the medical world, especially with music therapy.

The term “music therapy” essentially is what it sounds like: therapy using music.  However, the more scientific definition of this type of medicine is, “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” (American Music Therapy Association).  The therapy can include any of the following: singing, writing music, moving to music, or listening to music.  This method has been used for ages, even Plato referred to it, “I would teach children music, physicas and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”

Music therapy is generally used for all sorts of disorders, such as autism, alzheimers, depression, and dissociative identity disorder.  However, music therapy doesn’t have to be exclusively limited to people with mental problems.  Music therapy can be as simple as listening to your favorite song when you’re feeling a little down.  Or maybe you’re really stressing over your big final that’s coming up and music is the only thing that can calm you down: these are forms of music therapy.  Yes, they’re not clinical, but the music is still working in you brain, producing those “feel good” neurotransmitters.

Fellow tweeter, Paul Donnellan, tweets about the different facts of music therapy and includes a link, which provides even more facts about the therapy.

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Music also has the ability to make a person feel sad.  These kinds of songs would not be advised to be used in a music therapy session.  Having a fragile patient listen to a song about suicide (such as Whiskey Lullaby by Brad Paisley) could possibly hurt them even more.  However, sometimes, depending on the situation and disorder, a sad song might be needed to help the patient cope and learn not to be overly influenced by music (depressed patients) or to possibly draw out a personality that has been hidden (DID patients).

I did a mini experiment to illustrate the emotional responses in people without a disorder after listening to two different country songs: Whiskey Lullaby by Brad Paisely and No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems by Kenny Chesney.

What music does to the brain


“American Music Therapy Association.” Definition and Quotes about Music Therapy. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2013

Chesney, Kenny. No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems. BNA Entertainment, 2002. CD.

DNews. “How Music Affects Your Brain.” Online video clip. Youtube. Youtube, 2 March 2013. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.

Donnellan, Paul. (PDonnellan). “worth reading facts about music therapy in medicine: stress reduction, pain relief, shorter hospital stay,…” 8 Dec. 2012. 2:11 p.m. Tweet.

“How Our Brains Process Music.” How Our Brains Process Music. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2013.

Paisley, Brad. Whiskey Lullaby. Arista Nashville, 2003. CD.

“What Happens to Your Brain under the Influence of Music.” Io9. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.


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