Exams nights were fight nights in our Engineering College Hostel. And Music was the culprit. It was a three cornered fight between Heavy Metal v/s Soft Instrumental v/s Silent Music. There were students who represented each faction. The argument for each was simple … it helped them concentrate !
It is said that there is a Music for every occasion. Party Music needs no introduction. Music for the Road is another form where travellers prefer specific genres for their journeys. Then there is this “Relaxing Music” without which any meditation or yoga session is considered incomplete. Can there actually be a Music for concentration ? Well lets concentrate and see:)
We are reared amongst music. From lullaby to school rhymes, religious hymns to festival celebrations, movies, parties its all around us. No wonder our brain curls up for it receives a little too much in its lifetime. But then, does the brain actually like it ? A study done at the McGill University showed that when subjects listened to music, it lit up in their brains those same areas which get a high when we experience pleasurable things like sex, eating sugary foods and doing drugs. To a layman music makes the brain release chemicals like dopamine and serotonin which activate our senses that make us feel all goody goody !
But then why is it that some like their Music all peppy and chirpy while some like it slow, monotonous and some loud, heavy. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that it’s the brain that likes music and everyones’ is unique. Maria Witek and colleagues’ experiments indicated that there needs to be a medium level of syncopation (variety of rhythm) in music to be able to trigger a pleasure node in average individuals. This means that the spectrum of what is defined as good music by an individual can be related to the levels of syncopation. Slow, monotonous is on one end of this spectrum (low levels of syncopation) and the fast chaotic on the other end (high levels of syncopation). Naturally the audience popularity follows the bell curve and thus majority end up liking the modern-pop or the funk style with medium level of syncopation.
Okay, so far so good. Brain receives Music. Brain likes Music so we like it too! But then why do folks who like to listen to music while they’re carrying out a task, or when driving a vehicle , reading a book or studying say it helps them focus. Where does Music get into our concentration?
The answer is simple. Its all about attention and attention enablers. We are usually at our most attentive when we are relaxed say for example after a long and restful sleep, or say after a bout of exercise, a power nap etc. These activities act as enablers to remove the clutter in us. To focus means asking the brain to remove the clutter and pay attention to the task at hand. What spoils this process are the distractions. Distractions sap the energy of the brain that wants to focus on certain things. The brain’s surroundings may act as enablers or distractions depending upon how you qualify them. If you are in a library and there is sound it is a distraction, if you are in office and there is a continuous opening or closing of the cabinets, the clack clack of high heels (ahem..reserve the distraction clause here) or the meeting room doors opening and closing, someone talking loudly on the mobile; all these are distractions. Random thoughts when you need to be doing maths classifies as distractions as well! The brain then needs to neutralise these or shut them off to focus on things of importance or the task set out for. Therein comes the Music.
Music can act as a neutralizer in cases mentioned above or in some cases as enablers. We have already seen how the brain likes music so when it gets the music dose it helps make in us a happy brain. A happy brain means ready to focus and pay attention to. The only criterion is if we have the right music to make our brains happy!
How many of us have seen the Olympic Athletes and Swimmers with their headphones sitting in the wait area before their event. Be it a soccer or a cricket match, players before the match with headphones on seems logical now.
With exams just around the corner, tension and stress is at an all-time high. Why not let music come to your rescue? A Popular recommendation is that listening to slow classical music has a tremendous relaxing effect on our mind. It slows the pulse and heart rate, lowers blood pressure and decreases the level of stress hormones. And if you choose to sing along, nothing like it! So the next time you think you are heading towards an exam fever, try listening to soft classical music.
But then different genres of music can cause specific responses in your brain say funky music = dancing or sad music = emotional / melancholy, motivational music = activity/ action; We feel it really comes down to personal preferences. And given the infinite combinations with which Music can be delivered there is enough for everyone to have their kinds. For some their brain happy music is classical, for some its a folk song, for many others maybe a sufi song (with the medium syncopation) and for others the loud, fast paced heavy metal stuff. One will be amazed that some folks thrive when hearing video game soundtracks.
PS: If Music does really help concentrate wonder when will someone invent a Music that gives us the power of a photogenic memory ?
As we at Localturnon concentrate on the following “Turn On Music || Turn on Happiness || Turn on Life!”