Music – The Science and Memories!

Music – The Science and Memories!

Music- All of us love music, it is an indisputable fact. All of us love different kinds of music. Our playlists could give insights into our personality, to someone carefully going through it. Music has a special place in lives and we have rejoiced our happiness, celebrated our success, found solace at some of our worst times, channelled our angst and helplessness through music. There is a song for every occasion.

So what is the science behind this effect of music in our lives? Research  ” reveals how wide networks in the brain, including areas responsible for motor actions, emotions, and creativity, are activated during music listening”. Listening to your favourite music releases neurotransmitter – Dopamine the ‘motivational molecule’ (laughter also releases this) and listening to live music, or playing music with others releases Oxytocin the ‘trust molecule’ in our brain. Professional musicians brain scan reveals a more symmetrical brain and thicker corpus callosum – the band of nerve fibres that enables communication between brains hemispheres.  For more facts on how music affects our brain visit bebrainfit.

What is more amazing is that one would never forget to play an instrument, just like one can never forget to ride a bike after they have learnt it. I kinda witnessed it this afternoon, at my neighbour’s. They had an expensive keyboard tucked away in a corner and on asking, I came to know that their son had won the top prize in his school for playing a Bollywood number. After much cajoling, he did play the starting few notes to the song, it was as if his fingers knew where to go. It had been more than 5 years since he last played. This made me wonder, what makes us not forget.

Excerpts from, explains how the memory of learning to play an instrument like guitar or piano, embeds itself as a muscle memory. So one can always start playing a tune from the procedural memory, just vaguely at first and after a little practice to playing the song completely.

Long-term memory is often divided into two further main types: explicit (or declarative) memory and implicit (or procedural) memory.

Declarative memory (“knowing what”) is memory of facts and events, and refers to those memories that can be consciously recalled (or “declared”). It is sometimes called explicit memory, since it consists of information that is explicitly stored and retrieved, although it is more properly a subset of explicit memory. Declarative memory can be further sub-divided into episodic memory and semantic memory.

Procedural memory (“knowing how”) is the unconscious memory of skills and how to do things, particularly the use of objects or movements of the body, such as tying a shoelace, playing a guitar or riding a bike. These memories are typically acquired through repetition and practice, and are composed of automatic sensorimotor behaviours that are so deeply embedded that we are no longer aware of them. Once learned, these “body memories” allow us to carry out ordinary motor actions more or less automatically. Procedural memory is sometimes referred to as implicit memory, because previous experiences aid in the performance of a task without explicit and conscious awareness of these previous experiences, although it is more properly a subset of implicit memory.

Also, anterograde amnesia effects only the declarative memory and not the procedural memory. So even an amnesiac could play an instrument even when they have completely forgotten all other information related to the who they are. An article talks about how the musical ability and the musical memory of a British Conductor were intact, even after he had contracted a brain infection that left him with a memory span of only 10 seconds.

Another aspect of music is the nostalgia it brings with it, Christopher Bergland writes in psychology today about the clear vivid memories that a favourite song evokes of faces, emotions and locations. A study conducted shows that music can elicit strong responses from people with Alzheimer’s disease. ” A piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person’s face in your mind’s eye” says the author Petr Janata, associate professor of psychology at UC Davis’ Center for Mind and Brain.

The first time I heard 91.1 FM radio city in Bangalore, the first private radio channel. It was a song from the movie “Fiza” and the memory of what I was doing at the moment and the joy I felt listening to it for the first time on Radio, is forever etched in my mind.  Sharing a pair of earphones and listening to Lenny Kravitz’s ‘Again’ on our sony walkman phone in the college canteen. That is always gonna be with me. On a bad day, within the first few days of starting work caught between missing the care free days of college and standing on the threshold of adulthood, remember listening to Rammstein’s “Nebel” and just feeling lighthearted. I definitely remember all the concerts. Conversation with friends and the emotions felt during a concert all are still clearly visible. An acapella group singing Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”  in ‘The Sunday Jam’ and the happy gratitude one of member showed to me for being ‘such an enthusiastic listener’. The song ” Ennodo Nee Irundhal” from movie ‘I’ was the lullaby for my son for many days, humming it to ask for it.  The first song a special someone sang for me “Vennilave” from ‘Minsara Kanavu’ over long distance call, make up for some unforgettable memories.

Music is magical. Keep listening and keep living and loving!!!