I Got the Music in Me

by | Dec 2, 2018 | Animals | 0 comments

Music plays many roles in my life. I often listen to music when I exercise. The music stimulates me to exercise hard, and it serves as a reward for my effort. When I travel, especially on long flights, I listen to music. There it serves as entertainment. Other individuals use music to relax or to fill the silence.

Some people listen to music much more than I do. They love music.

Why does music appeal to us? The rhythmic, pleasing sounds are a big part of the story. Humans may have evolved to listen to and enjoy specific types of sounds, particularly human sounds and speech.  Human sounds can help connect us with others. In many songs, the music is combined with a singing voice telling a story. Think of Layla, written by Eric Clapton about his desire for George Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd: “I gave you consolation when your old man let you down … Let’s make the best of a bad situation.”

Sometimes the message is simple and direct, as in It’s My Life by Bon Jovi: “I just want to live while I am alive.”

Studies have shown that music can improve immune functioning and reduce feelings of distress, including just prior to undergoing an invasive medical procedure. Specifically, music tends to increase production of natural killer cells and decrease production of cortisol. Both adults and children benefit.

The pleasing effects of music come with activation of the dopamine system of the brain, the same area stimulated by drug use, eating, and sexual behaviour. I hesitate to think of what might happen if a person listened to music while using drugs, eating, and so on at the same time. Ecstasy or overload?

No one knows for sure why some people like one kind of music and others like something different. Genes might play a role, along with models and early experiences. I like peppy music with action-oriented lyrics. That suits my personality. When I buy my next song to listen to while exercising, it may be Start Me Up by the Rolling Stones. Other individuals like songs that express, with lyrics or music, anger, longing, or sadness. Think of Kenny Rogers’ song Lucille: “You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, with four hungry children and a crop in the field.”

There is evidence that some species of animals like music, at least to the extent of acting calmer when it is playing. However, they may not like the same music as humans do. Some researchers make special cat or rat music that works for those creatures. Horses seem to like music with the rhythm of beating hooves. If animals were able to make their own music, what would it sound like? But wait, some animals do make a type of music. Bird songs are one example. Monkey hooting could be another.

Music – listen to some.


[Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash]


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