There is no such thing as bad music

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Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for a sense of motivation and pleasure. The production of dopamine can be further stimulated by listening to music on shuffle because having a favorite song come on as a surprise triggers a boost of dopamine. (Daniel McAnulty/Flickr Creative Commons)

With time, music collections grow, playlists get longer and popular genres change. The overall societal appreciation of music has not faded since its first appearance in the civilized world. Music is universally responded to and is a uniting force in the global community. There is a song for every occasion and mood, if not several. Research on such a predominant component of human culture is inevitable and its findings conclude that music has an enriching effect on the human brain and psyche.

Generally, music stimulates brain activity and induces cognitive function. Those who actively listen to and study music tend to have “larger corpus callosum. (8) This is the band of nerve fibers that transfers information between the two hemispheres of the brain,” according to BeBrainFit. In other words, music promotes communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. Music, however, comes in many forms and genres, so it is highly unlikely that all music has one effect. Genres differ in the ways in which they affect the brain. Hip-hop, for example, has a particular effect on creativity flow; R&B affects the right supramarginal gyrus, the part of the brain responsible for empathy; Rock music stimulates the production of certain brain chemicals, such as dopamine, and it lowers the stress hormone cortisol.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for a sense of motivation and pleasure. The production of dopamine can be further stimulated by listening to music on shuffle because having a favorite song come on as a surprise triggers a boost of dopamine. Experiencing music with others helps build trust between people because it stimulates the production of oxytocin, a brain hormone that has been linked to feelings of trust. The oxytocin increase in music lovers has actually been shown to make people more generous and trustworthy.

Relatively fast rhythm and beat tend to speed up brain activity and thus also increase the speed of body movements. Music that both increases dopamine levels and effectuates quicker body movements is bound to increase productivity. For instance, playing music at work can make employees more productive as long it is music people enjoy.

It is commonly argued that aggressive music with vulgar lyrics has a negative effect on brain function because it alters a listener’s perspective on certain activities. For example, a Punk rock song about committing suicide will influence a listener’s opinion on drugs, and he or she will believe suicide is favorable. There are, however, a myriad of popular songs that condone certain activities that are still enjoyable and induce dopamine rushes. This is commonly seen in subgenres of hip-hop, in which emerging rappers lyricize about the objectification of women and drugs. Those songs may increase productivity for a plethora of listeners, particularly youth. With that said, there is no genre that explicitly hurts the brain, all music develops brain activity and should be regarded as neurologically beneficial.

There is not one specific genre that acts as a stress reliever. De-stressing requires the body’s natural production of dopamine and the reduction of heart rate. Since different people have different tastes in music, different genres induce dopamine rushes for people. Since there is not one genre that appeals to everyone, there is not one genre that helps stress relief, it is dependent on the listener. For some, hip-hop relieves stress, and other may get the same psychological and physical reaction from R&B or jazz.


Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus.  She can be reached via email at keren.blaunstein@uconn.edu.

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