Your Brain on Classical Music

classic music violinIf you grew up with music in your life, then the findings of a study by the University of Helsinki probably won’t surprise you. Researchers found that listening to classical music enhanced gene activity that affects the brain in a positive way.

Gene Activity Effects

Researchers worked with a group of 48 individuals with varying degrees of music background. Blood samples determined what differences in gene expression occurred listening to the 20-minute long, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K.216.

The effects involved both up-regulation and down-regulation of genes. Genes that were up-regulated included those involved dopamine secretion and transport as well and memory and learning. The down-regulated genes included those involved in mediating neurodegeneration. In short, listening to classical music positively affected brain activity.

Ubiquitous Music

Several of the identified genes also regulate song expression in songbirds. The researchers surmised that these findings may indicate a common evolutionary background. It’s worth noting that the effects in gene expression occurred in individuals with some music background.

I grew up with music. I played the organ, clarinet, violin, and now guitar. My sisters and I sang. They performed in theater; I preferred the organ bench. Even today, I see the effects of music on us. One of my sisters insists on “tuneage” when we go boating.

For my part, I constantly listen to music. It is part of my environment. As I write this, I am listening to Focus@Will because I can’t concentrate without music in the background. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaring music all the time. Rather, it sits quietly in the background as part of the mood of the moment.

Listening to Classical Music

The choice of Mozart in this study is interesting. Some put it down, calling it old people’s music or referring to it as old-fashioned. I can tell you one thing that truly amazed me about classical music. I was listening to some while writing one morning.

A piece that I’ve heard before played. Never before that moment have I ever been so caught up in music to cry. Yes, as I listened, tears streamed down my face. The music was the most beautiful thing I ever heard. The piece was Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Op. 11.

We all know that music adds something special to our lives. Now we have more evidence to support this idea. I could use a nice shot of dopamine right about now. Chris DR
photo credit: via photopin (license)