By Tanis Helliwell
I have always been fascinated by how the brain works and lately I’ve read some interesting information that I’d like to share with you about how music affects the brain.
Music can directly influence blood pressure, pulse, and the electrical activity of muscles. It may even build and strengthen connections between brain cells in the cortex. Brain imaging shows that the brain has specialized areas that only respond to music. These areas stimulate the limbic system producing positive emotional responses. Benefits of calming melodic music include lower stress, better learning, greater optimism, and feelings of well-being.
It seems that music burrows its way deep into the nervous system, so deep that even when people suffer devastating neurological disease or injury, such as strokes or Alzheimer’s’, music is usually the last thing they lose.
Oliver Sacks, MD, the noted neurologist and author, describes the profound bond between music and our brains and how the simple act of singing can be good medicine—especially as we age He says that music can literally unlock someone frozen by Parkinson’s disease, so that they may be able to dance or sing, even though, in the absence of music, they may be unable to take a step or say a word. It seems also that people who cannot find a word due to a stroke can often discover the words through singing. Dr. Sacks says that he has seen people with extreme forms of amnesia, or Alzheimer’s, who are unable to remember what happened to them a few minutes ago but are nonetheless able to sing or play long, complicated pieces of music, or even to conduct an orchestra or choir.
For a person, who can no longer remember the names of loved ones or even dress himself, to be able to sing is immensely important. It may be one of the few skills that the person still has retained. When he sings it builds self-esteem, humour, imagination and a feeling of well-being. It can induce in others a sense of admiration and respect that gives the person back himself. One of the qualities that define a human being is to feel of value… that you can contribute something. A person with Alzheimers may have this feeling only in a lucid moment, but how wonderful that the person can feel this at all in the devastated state in which they exist. Improvements of mood, behavior, even cognitive function that are created through music and singing can sometimes persist for hours or even days in people with dementia.
Music is not only important in when we have an illness affecting our memory or speech; it also has an affect on our aging process. Music appears to affect longevity and symphony conductors are the longest lived of any profession. Why is this? Medicine is not certain how much of this result is strictly biological, and how much is the result of positive emotional feelings in the person listening to and creating music.
I have been singing in a choir for a year and half and often find it stressful, in that I don’t read music and need to memorize what others in the choir can read. However, I feel elated at the end of each practice because I sing for the joy of it. Singing or playing an instrument creates beauty in the world. It uplifts and inspires us. It evokes emotions and feelings in us. It is a form of personal expression.
We love to hear the music of natural things as well, such as the music of a running brook or breeze in the trees. It is not only humans who like to express themselves individually through sound. For example, scientists have discovered that each redwing blackbird and each Humpback whale sings its own individual song and this may be true of many more species, which we have yet to discover. Humans experience joy listening to the songs of birds and whales. Just as our eyes love to see beauty, our ears love to hear the sounds of nature. We find it painful to hear discordant sound such as the buzzing of chainsaws, the screeching of car brakes, and rock and rap ‘music’ can be harmful when it is either too loud or discordant. Sound is either edible food for our ears and our nervous system, or it is toxic. Let us bring sounds and music into our life that create and harmony and beauty.
Tanis Helliwell, a mystic in the modern world, has brought spiritual consciousness into the mainstream for over 30 years. Since childhood, she has seen and heard elementals, angels, and master teachers in higher dimensions. Tanis is the founder of the International Institute for Transformation (IIT), which offers programs to assist individuals to become conscious creators to work with the spiritual laws that govern our world.
Tanis is the author of The High Beings of Hawaii, Summer with the Leprechauns, Pilgrimage with the Leprechauns, Embraced by Love, Manifest Your Soul’s Purpose, Hybrids: So You Think You Are Human and Decoding Your Destiny.
For information on Tanis’ courses, click here.