Music has many well-documented positive effects when it comes to mental health. Music can soothe frazzled nerves at the end of a long day. Music can also help you release bottled up emotions, lessening the chances of these pent-up emotions causing physical ailments. Music has also been used to improve quality of sleep and even to lower blood pressure. But what about triggering some really hard-core physiological changes in the body after suffering injury? Can listening to and participating in music accomplish something this sophisticated?
According to researchers at the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in the Bronx, New York, the resounding answer is “yes.” They recently conducted a clinical trial to investigate the benefits of singing in patients who had suffered brain damage.
In many brain damage patients, the ability to speak, articulate and even understand other people’s verbal communication can be compromised. The researchers found that, by getting patients to engage in singing, a number of measurable benefits could be seen.
First of all, breathing improved in the patients. By taking in deeper breaths, more oxygen was supplied to the brain, aiding in the healing process. Next, the researchers found that singing increased verbal and nonverbal communicative behaviors, again boosting brain healing by giving the brain more exercise.
Singing also, not surprisingly, improved articulation and speech patterns. Singing helped to exercise the vocal chords and attune the brain to changes in rhythm, pitch and volume — all important aspects of verbal speech.
All of these beneficial effects were enhanced or diminished by the choice of music and the way it was interactively delivered. The researchers concluded that there are definite benefits from music therapy that could help heal brain damage in patients suffering from head trauma.
It stands to reason that, if music could help the brain heal after injury, it could also boost the health of an uninjured brain. Why not take this health advice to heart and consider joining a choir? It could help to keep your speech and thought patterns functioning at a high level, affording you more cognitive agility as you age.
Now, for another impressive health benefit of music therapy, read the article New Cancer Therapy is Music to Your Ears.