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Why music is good for your brain, as well as your mood

In tricky times, we all need to keep our ‘happy tracks’ close to hand but research has shown that music can affect much more than your mood. Here are just a few fascinating facts…


  • oxytocin – the ‘cuddle hormone’ – hormone related to bonding
    cf mothers singing to their babies
  • dopamine – reward/pleasure hormone (cf alcohol/anti-depressants) – particularly if it’s the kind of music that ‘sends a shiver down your spine’!
  • music is now being used to increase emotional understanding in autistic children (eg playing Mahler symphonies for sadness and Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ for joy! – teaching children to link brain and emotions when it can’t be done with words.
  • music with a high rate of beats per minutes (bpm) has been used through the centuries to get soldiers hyped up for battle (marching bands > Vietnam) – it raises blood pressure and therefore increases anxiety/fight/flight instincts – with luck it produces ‘fight’ in men required to do so.
  • music can help us process fear, grief, sadness which we are not able to verbalise.


  • music can assist in regaining parts of memory and improve brain health and quality of life in Alzheimers’ patients – by playing/singing music familiar to them from earlier in their lives, they can be reconnected with important memories.
  • we can all use familiar tunes which link with particular memories to evoke emotional responses


  • when brains are damaged they can make new pathways to enable them to function (neuroplasticity) – music can provide the stimuli to create these new pathways
  • this relates to both the ability to experience emotions (cf autistic children) and the ability to recapture memories (cf Alzheimers’ sufferers)


  • music can increase seratonin levels which can help with sleep and even pain control


  • music can activate, sustain and improve our attention
  • studies have shown that peak brain activity occurs during short periods of silence in classical compositions (eg between movements of symphonies)
  • specific musical frequencies have been shown to induce different states in our brain (higher frequencies: awake/alert; lower frequencies: meditative/imaginative/relaxed)
  • by contrast descriptive or lyric-heavy music can engage our analytic brains and divide our attention/distract us from other tasks

Tips on using music for greater productivity (including lots of playlists!)

Or just play songs that bring back happy memories to strengthen neural pathways to happiness. Check out the truly eclectic CADAS Happy Tracks playlist on YouTube here: or build your own!

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