Whether it’s the music that was playing on the radio when you met your partner or the first song your baby daughter smiled to, for many of us, music is a core part of life. And it’s no wonder – there is considerable scientific evidence that fetuses experience sounds while in the womb, meaning music may affect us even before we are born.
Music can leave us with a sense of transcendental beauty or make us reach for the ear plugs. In fact, it is almost unparalleled among the arts in its ability to quickly generate an incredibly wide range of powerful emotions. But what happens in our brains and bodies when we emotionally react to music has long been a bit of a mystery. A mystery that researchers have only recently started to explore and understand.
Numerous studies have shown that listening to music leads to changes in activity in core brain networks known to underpin our experience of emotion. We also know that music has the ability to affect the way in which the body behaves. Our heart rate rises as we listen to exciting music, while our blood pressure can be lowered by calm, soothing music. Scary music, on the other hand, can make us sweat and raise goose bumps.
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