Can Music Heal The Brain?
James Schaller, CMP
Dec 14, 2018
What if 100,00 years ago our species learned to take two biological traits - say blinking, and release of dopamine. And then through technology (maybe simulated bright lights), we learned to stimulate blinking much more than needed to simply keep our eyes lubricated.
We could call this practice….winking. Over thousands of generations humanity would create a cult of pleasure across all cultures that would indulge in ‘winking’. Books would be written, religion would co-opt, genders would develop accepted norms for winking…and of course there would be ‘the disruptors’.
Well that’s one theory advanced about how the practice of music had no specific biological need or trigger, but co-opted various parts of our brain that became stimulated in the process of making or listening to music. And humans found this pleasurable! (The why and how of music even left Darwin scratching his head.)
To answer the question ‘can music heal the brain’ we must first come to grips with the extraordinary complexity of the brain (beyond our ability to comprehend), and the many areas of the brain that respond to music.
The dramatic ways in which music can affect the brain are best told by Dr. Oliver Sachs in his book Musicophilia. There you’ll read about many deep cognitive functions dramatically affected by music. Sometimes the patient became suddenly musical, sometimes music brought peace and internal alignment. Other patients became driven to express their new found musical talents.
In another blog I’ll discuss how music can benefit dementia patients. But for now we can say: ‘Yes, music can powerfully affect the brain, and possibly re-arrange the furniture.’
As for healing? Many music therapists use music to improve cognitive and physiological functions. We need to be more specific. Healing the brain would be like…healing the galaxy! Some parts will respond positively to a comet, random asteroid or supernova. Other parts…hmmm maybe not so much.
In my online course The Healer’s Visit I teach how to use music to reduce pain and anxiety and work with dementia patients. So while music dramatically affects the brain, it’s too early in our research to say that a particular type of music will cure or heal a specific area of the brain.
Now I’d like to hear from you. Take a moment to recall your music memories. Have you had an experience with music that you found affected your thinking or feelings? What type of music helps you concentrate? Do you have a type of music that can help you forget unpleasant memories or feelings? Do you have a special song that triggers deep memories of people, places, or events?
Please leave a comment here at JamesSchaller.com and share with our community.
If you’d like more real-deal, practical resources about sound, music and healing, then sign up for updates at JamesSchaller.com. In my emails I often send specials like free music, tips on how to create healing environments and referrals to essential resources for healing music, inspiration, and how to rest and re-set.
James Schaller, CMP is a clinical musician and consultant who trains caregivers how to use therapeutic music, and consults with healthcare facilities to create soundscapes that benefit patients and staff.
James Schaller, CMP
James Schaller, CMP is a clinical musician, composer, music producer, and communications consultant. James is trained to deliver prescriptive music at the bedside in medical situations and has designed collaborative work communications for broadcast networks and TV stations, university sports arenas and stadiums, Broadway theaters and shows, and the occasional nuclear power plant. James trains and consults with medical teams and caregiver organizations on how to create and manage soundscapes for patients, residents and staff, how to introduce and use therapeutic music within facilities, and best practices to reduce noise.