Beautiful music can move an audience to tears while a high-pitched sound can shatter glass. The vibrations and frequencies that make up the sounds have a powerful effect on the human mind—and body, say some scientists.
Music and Healing"Music is a uniquely effective tool for treating neurological impairment because it recruits nearly every region of the brain," wrote William Forde Thompson, a distinguished professor of psychology at Macquarie University, and Gottfried Schlaug, associate professor of neurology at Harvard University, in an article published by Scientific American.
Their article told the story of how an 11-year-old girl, Laurel, suffered from a stroke that resulted in permanent brain damage. She was unable to communicate clearly although her language comprehension was perfectly intact.
Through melodic intonation therapy, a connection was built between the hearing and speaking regions in Laurel's right brain. This connection bypassed the speech pathways on the left side of her brain which were badly damaged.
"By the end of the 15-week treatment period, she could speak in sentences of five to eight words, sometimes more," wrote Thomspon and Schlaug.
In 2015, the year their article was published, eight years had passed since Laurel's accident. She had become an inspirational speaker hoping to motivate stroke survivors.
Music as MedicineMusic has been used to improve health across many different cultures throughout history.
Thompson and Schlaug mentioned a few examples such as frescoes in Egypt depicting the use of music to improve fertility in women.
"Shamans in the highland tropical forests of Peru use chanting as their primary tool for healing, and the Ashanti people of Ghana accompany healing ceremonies with drumming," wrote the authors.
The authors also stated that the five major organs correspond to five moods. "Thinking corresponds to the spleen (Gong), sorrow/worry to the lungs (Shang), anger to the liver (Jue), joy to the heart (Zhi), and fear/fright to the kidneys (Yu) respectively," wrote Zhang and Lai.
When an ailment is discovered in a certain part of the body, listening to music of the scale that corresponds to that organ may help alleviate the problems there, said the authors.
"The music of Shang strengthens the astringing and purifying effects of the lungs and regulates water metabolism," said Zhang and Lai.
While music cannot cure Alzheimer's, it can alleviate confusion and anxiety in patients, according to the article.
Music is also used at certain medical centers to help with surgery preparation, procedure, and recovery.
Music and LearningMozart's music is famously said to make babies smarter, but does it really?
While Harvard did not experiment with babies, the University of California, Irvine, asked three groups of college students to take an IQ test after listening to ten minutes of either Mozart, a relaxation tape, or silence for ten minutes.
The groups that listened to Mozart consistently did better than the others.
What Kind of Music Is Best?In 1992, Dr. Masaru Emoto began a series of experiments with water crystals. Water that was exposed to positive words such as "hope" and "love" formed beautiful, whole water crystals, he said, while words like "ugly" formed discolored, unshapely masses that don't resemble crystals.
He also played music to see the impact it would have on water. He played different types of music ranging from Vivaldi to "Imagine" by John Lennon to heavy metal. While classical music and "Imagine" produced whole water crystals, heavy metal created a mass of vibrations without any apparent order.
Emoto's methodology has met with some criticism, and his experiment has been criticized for being difficult to replicate.
But if his findings are true, it would be interesting to note that water makes up about 60 percent of the human body depending on age and gender.
His research looked at the use of chords, tools for musical expression, range of rhythms, etc., and found that classical music fared much better than pop, rock, or other modern genres in its usage of these musical components.
"Popular music has difficulties attaining precision of expressiveness that can rise to profundity," he wrote.
Classical music, on the other hand, "can achieve fine-grained expressiveness difficult to attain in popular music."