Good music has direct access to the emotions. As such it's a fantastic tool for tweaking our moods. Saarikallio and Erkkila (2007) investigated the ways people use music to control and improve their mood by interviewing eight adolescents from Finland. The participants may be a small, very specific group, but they actually present a really useful list:
1.Entertainment - At the most fundamental level music provides stimulation. It lifts the mood before going out, it passes the time while doing the washing up, it accompanies travelling, reading and surfing the web.
2. Revival - Music revitalizes in the morning and calms in the evening.
3. Strong sensation - Music can provide deep, thrilling emotional experiences, particularly while performing.4. Diversion - Music distracts the mind from unpleasant thoughts which can easily fill the silence.
5. Discharge - Music matching deep moods can release emotions: purging and cleansing.
6. Mental work - Music encourages daydreaming, sliding into old memories, exploring the past.
7. Solace - Shared emotion, shared experience, a connection to someone lost.
These sevenstrategies all aim for two goals: controlling and improving mood. One of the beauties of music is it can accomplish more than one goal at a time. Uplifting music can both divert, entertain and revive. Sad, soulful music can provide solace, encourage mental work and discharge emotions. The examples are endless.
Many of Saarikallio and Erkkila's findings chime with previous research. For example,distraction is considered one of the most effective strategies for regulating mood. Music has also been strongly connected with reflective states. These tend to allow us greater understanding of our emotions.
One of the few negative connections Saarikallio and Erkkila consider is that sad music might promote rumination. Rumination is the constant examination of emotional state which, ironically, can leadto less clarity. On the contrary, however, Saarikallio and Erkkila found that music increased the understanding of feelings, an effect not associated with rumination.
How music influences brain development
Scientists have discovered that music training has significant influences on the brain development of young children leading to improved memory over the course of a year. The fact thatmusical training changes the way the brain reacts to music might not be very surprising, but researchers also found that the musically trained children performed better in a memory test that is correlated with other skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics and intelligence.
The team led by Dr Laurel Trainor, professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior atMcMaster University, Canada, and Director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, have measured over the course of one year the changes in brain responses to sounds in children aged between four and six.
"This is the first study to show that brain responses in young, musically trained and untrained children change differently over the course of a year," said Trainor. "These changesare likely to be related to the cognitive benefit that is seen with musical training."
Other studies have shown that older children taking music lessons show greater improvements in IQ scores than children taking drama lessons.
"Previous work has shown assignment to musical training is associated with improvements in IQ in school-aged
Children," said co-author Dr Takako Fujioka fromBaycrest's Rotman Research Institute. "Our work explores how musical training affects the way in which the brain develops. It is clear that music is good for children's cognitive development and that music should be part of the pre-school and primary school curriculum."
When the study began, six of the children (five boys, one girl) had just started to attend a Suzuki music school while the other six...