facebook pixel What Happens to Your Brain When You Listen to Music
Site Search
< Blog Home < Healthy Living

What Happens to Your Brain When You Listen to Music

Music may be the secret to improving test scores, staying focused, and improving your mood.

 large headphones laying on a table

You may have heard that music can help you focus, increase your test scores, or improve your memory. Pretty remarkable, really. Music affects us in incredible ways.

There’s no shortage of music in the world, especially given the myriad cultures, genres, and the vast number of websites and apps available—music is now more accessible than ever before. 

Music can affect your mood

The easiest way to understand why music has such a powerful effect on the mind is to monitor brain activity while someone is listening to music. Columbia University developed a machine that effectively does just that. The results show different parts of the brain that are activated when a song is playing.

Most people have different music preferences, but interestingly enough, taste in music isn’t the most important factor—an emotional connection is. When a song that a person seems to enjoy is playing, the limbic system (the part of the brain that controls emotion) shows much more activity. As a result, music that evokes emotion can have a direct effect on one’s mood.

Music can help connect people and make us feel like we’re not alone. It’s the reason we have music at parties, funerals, graduations, and in movies. In a 2011 study, participants completed a task and then were falsely told they performed poorly.

One group was left in silence afterward, while another group was placed in a room with positive music playing. Those who heard the music after reported that they were more hopeful about future tasks than those left in silence.

Music can help you to focus

Can music really help you focus? Yes—but it depends on the type of music. “Music with lyrics is very likely to have a problematic effect when you’re writing or reading,” said Clifford Nass, professor at Stanford University. Classical music or instrumental genres have been used more frequently to help students study.

Furthermore, a 2013 study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine concluded that musically trained children had stronger everyday listening skills than those who had no music training. The same listening skills are also closely related to a child’s ability to pay attention, keep sounds in their memory, and understand speech through background noise. 

Related: 21 Songs That Should Be Part of Your Workout Playlist

In today’s world of customization—and with music at your fingertips—you can now enjoy all the benefits of music, anytime you want. So go find some stellar tunes and increase your brain activity!

Looking for more healthy living content? Check out other healthy living articles.


SelectHealth may link to other websites for your convenience. SelectHealth does not expressly or implicitly recommend or endorse the views, opinions, specific services, or products referenced at other websites linked to the SelectHealth site, unless explicitly stated.

The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

You May Also Like...

Healthcare and Insurance Basics

Preventive Care for Men and Women: Cancer Screenings [Infographic]

Preventive care can help you gauge your current health status and find out ways to protect it now and in the future. Follow these recommendations for getting screened for cancer.

Nutrition and Diet

9 Superfoods for Healthier Digestion

Does your body’s digestive system know what it’s missing?

In the Community

Is Your Organization Keeping Utah Healthy? Apply for Our Award

Each year, we recognize 20 organizations that are making a healthy difference in Utah to help support their missions.


Here’s Why Getting to Know Your Prospective Employer and Employee Is a Critical First Step in the Hiring Process

A few years ago, I unexpectedly landed my dream job. I want to share how it happened with the hopes that others who are searching for the perfect fit could use a similar process.

Contenido Español

Consejos para preparar un depósito de alimentos y qué tener en su despensa

Cocinar en casa no tiene que ser complicado.

Related Articles

Related Articles

Healthy Living

7 Health Tips for Men Over 30

Men, it’s time to start taking your health seriously.

Healthy Living

Why You Should Care About Air Quality

Poor air quality affects everyone—here’s what one mom thinks you should know.

Healthy Living

How Does your State Rank in the Healthiest States Report?

The best and worst states for good health across the nation in 2019.

Healthy Living

Don't Fall for These 3 Sleep Myths

Have you ever wondered if snoring is a health concern? We’re explaining that and debunking other myths about sleep.

Post Author

Tom Schleiffarth