Research has shown that listening to just 20 minutes of classical music a day can modulate genes that are responsible for brain functioning. Scientists have known for quite awhile that listening to music, any music as long as it's one you enjoy, results in neuronal and physiological changes. Recently, a study was conducted where participants were asked to listen to Mozart's violin concerto No. 3 G-Major, K216, a piece that lasts 20 minutes. Some participants were musically experienced, while others were not. The researchers found that listening to music affected the activity of up-regulated genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic function, larning and memory...in a positive way. Interestingly enough, one of those up-regulated genes (synuclein-alpha or SNCA) is most often associated with Parkinson's Disease, and is also responsible for how birds learn their songs. Pretty cool, eh?
The up-regulation of genes associated with birds learning and singing their songs suggests that there is "a shared evolutionary background of sound perception between vocalizing birds and humans" reported Dr. Irma Jarvela, an expert in evolutionary biology from the University of Helsinki in Finland. More importantly, studies show that listening to music 'down-regulated genes associated with neurodegenerative diseases helps' to keep the brain healthy. The effects were only visible in participants who regularly listened to classical music, however. This study suggests that it is important, then, to be familiar with and regularly experience, classical music.
Music-therapy has been in use for quite awhile, now, but these new studies can improve upon what we already know and may thus be able to help more humans who suffer from degenerative diseases. Need more reasons to listen to classical music? How about these?
Classical music can help you sleep better. Research shows that listening to soothing, music is better than verbal stimuli (like audio books or talking) in helping the body and mind relax before going to sleep. Classical music can calm you down while driving. And who among us can't use more of that! It's a well-known fact that many accidents are caused by aggressive driving and road rage and if classical music can mellow us out a bit, why not try it? And did you know that there is no word in German for road rage? Germany, of course, is home to such classical composers as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Handel, to name a few. Classical music calms post-operative and chronic pain, too...much nicer than taking a pill. Listening to classical music seems to tune-out pain by increasing the brain's reward center, thereby alleviating the sensation of pain. It can help reduce depression, as well. Classical music reduces blood pressure. It helps us express our emotions more easily...humans communicate more honestly and openly about their emotions while listening to this music. And, finally, it can help you with your diet! Yep. Playing soft, relaxing music and dimming the lights in your dining room or kitchen, can actually help you to chew your food more slowly so you tend to eat less. Classical music makes us eat with more intention. Sounds good to me!
I love music. All kinds of music. But after reading all these great reasons why it's good to listen to classical music, I know I will head to the iTunes store this morning and download a few tunes. How about you? We can all use better brain funtionality, to be calmer, and to sleep better. And what better way to accomplish all of these things than by listening to some of the world's most beautiful music!