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Six ways music affects your brain

The effect music has on the brain has fascinated scientists for decades and is closely tied with neuroscience and cognitive psychology. Science has shown that music does some pretty weird and sometimes awesome things to the brain. 


1. Classical music improves visual


Contrary to popular belief, classical music does not make people smarter, but according to an article in the Journal of Occupational Therapy, it can help people focus. It even helped stroke patients recover quicker. 


2. When listening to happy- or sad-sounding music, we perceive
neutral faces differently 


According to, after hearing a short piece of music, participants were more likely to interpret a neutral expression as happy or sad, matching the tone of the music they heard. This also happened with other facial expressions, but was most notable for those that were close to neutral.


3. Music can significantly distract us while driving


In a study done by Brodsky & Slor, drivers were tested while listening to their own choice of music, silence or “safe” music choices provided by the researchers. Their own music was preferred, but it also proved to be more distracting — drivers made more mistakes and drove more aggressively when listening to their own choice of music.


4. Music tastes predict aspects of our personality 


This has only been tested on young adults, but according to a study on, couples who spent time getting to know each other and looking at each other’s top 10 favorite songs actually provided reliable predictions of the listener’s personality traits. For example, jazz fans were noted as being creative, outgoing and having high self-esteem, whereas rock lovers had low self-esteem, and were gentle and creative rather than hard working. 


5. Playing music significantly improves motor and reasoning skills


One study found that while these results were correlational only, “instrumental music training may enhance auditory discrimination, fine motor skills, vocabulary, and nonverbal reasoning.” In other words, the longer a person studies an instrument, the easier it is for them to learn new languages and their cognitive function is improved. 


6. Music improves our exercise results


This will come as no surprise to those gym rats out there. A study done in Scientific American found that listening to music competes for our brain’s attention while exercising and can help us to override signals of fatigue. A study showed that cyclists who listened to music required 7 percent less oxygen to do the same work as those who cycled in silence.