Music – The Healing Language of the Soul
Our senses allow us to experience the outside world more fully. They have evolved to keep us safe, allowing us to stay aware of dangers. In addition to conducting their basic functions, the senses also have a way of reaching deeply into the soul.
As human beings, we desire a lot more from our senses than the basic function of hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing and touching. We want to be touched by the beauty of an enchanting melody, overcome by the aroma of a mouth-watering dish, absorbed by mesmerizing art, and feel the loving affection of a hug and a kiss.
The human ability to hear music, at its basic function, is pretty marvelous. Waves of energy travel through the air and tickle our ear, creating a vibration that is transmitted through the ear and then via a nerve to the brain, which then compiles the information to create a beautiful melody in our head. Even more remarkable is the reality that music vibration also creates an emotional and physiological response in us.
Scientists are starting to explore the connection between music and consciousness and how music can affect human psychology and the general human experience. For many years, therapists have used calming music to help patients who suffer a stroke or brain injury or are affected by neurological degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Music therapy is also being used to address psychological disorders, with research supporting it as an effective, low-cost alternative to drugs in the face of anxiety, depression, memory loss, and agitation.
Music is a great non-pharmacological remedy that is increasingly used to treat illnesses and disorders and improve patients’ quality of life. Its use in therapy will become more common and more effective as we learn how music affects the brain, how the brain processes and interprets sound, how it uses it to impact our emotions, and how it uses it to heal us. Below is a video that shows an example of “the quickening art” of music (Immanuel Kant) and its effect on an unresponsive patient in a nursing home.
And then there’s the question of what is creative genius neurologically? Our ability to create music, even when deaf (as was Beethoven when he wrote his 9th symphony) or improvising on the fly (as done by many Jazz or hip-hop musicians) is a remarkable gift. To glimpse into the neuroscience behind musical creativity, Dr. Charles Limb conducted research studies that compare what is happening in the brain during a recollection of music that is memorized, versus what happens when music is created spontaneously.
In the experiments, Dr. Limb examined via fMRI the effects that jazz, jazz improvisation, hip-hop and freestyle hip-hop have on the brain. You can listen to him discussing the research and see some filming of the experiments in the Ted talk below. Through fMRI imaging, Dr. Limb found that a dissociation in the frontal lobe of the brain happening during the creative process. The areas associated with inhibition and self-monitoring see a reduction in activity, while blood flow increases to the areas associated with self-expression. Limb also found that improvisational interplay between musicians resulted in increased activity in the Broca’s area of the brain, which is associated with language. Perhaps music is in fact the language of the soul.
Read more articles by Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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