The power of music

If you happen to travel via the metro, you have probably noticed how every other passenger has earphones plugged into their ears.

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Published: Thu 18 Apr 2013, 8:51 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:36 AM

While some might actually hearing tedious podcasts of school lectures, most of them are listening to music. It’s a fact: Most of us cannot function in the modern world without our daily dose of music. A couple of soothing Buddha Bar numbers can make banal, routine activities— like travelling in a train or driving back home from work — seem enjoyable, while hip hop beats by Pitbull gets us pumped up for a run on the treadmill.

So, what is about music that makes us sail through mind-numbingly boring activities and step the intensity of our workout? While we think of music as art — a reflection of human creativity and subjectivity— how our brain actually reacts to music has been the subject of many scientific studies. It’s a well-established fact that listening to music changed brain activity, and scientists have tried to explain why our brains are sensitive to melodies and why some songs get “stuck in our heads” for days. Now, in the reputed journal Science, a study has shown that listening to new music actually “rewards” certain areas of the brain. Canadian scientists have found out that the reward centre of the brain when people listened to a new beat got activated. Apparently, the listeners got excited as they looked forward to the next sound; the anticipation was different from the one experienced for physical gratification, since music is abstract.

Interestingly, the researchers, by monitoring brain activity, were able to tell when the listeners were enjoying the music — a reflection on the direction in which neuroscience is heading. Scientists look forward to monitoring signals from the brain and interpreting it as emotions, preferences and commands. Human beings can look forward to becoming Darth Vader-like creatures, who use the “force” of their minds— concentration, in other words — to perform all sorts of tasks. And perhaps, someday, all you’ll have to do is think about a song to pay it on your iPod!

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