I was listening to the Diane Rehm show about the power of music in healing; not just the spirit but actual therapies to restore brain function. After listening, I found this article from PBS detailing similar information about the subject. As an educator, I have always noticed that those students with a good sense of rhythm tended to function better in the academic classroom, i.e. with behavior and actual reading ability. In this article, therapists, researchers and doctors are showing that music is increasingly used with positive results in the treatment of early onset dementia, children with autism, and patients with brain injuries like returning veterans.
While research on the neurological effects of music therapy is in its infancy, what is known is that a number of regions in the brain are activated by listening to music. And scientists say the brain responds to music by creating new pathways around damaged areas.
ERIC WALDON, professor of music therapy, University of the Pacific: It's the rhythmic aspects of music that are providing that structure, that organization within time that are allowing her to learn to walk again or to gain speech sounds.
I think what we find in people that have had brain injuries, sometimes it's easier for them to sing words, rather than to say words. Music is providing that pathway or almost like a cerebral bypass around the damaged areas, allowing someone to regain mobility or regain speech.
The article went on to talk about different music therapy uses such as stress and anxiety relief by listening or participating in musical activities. They seem to lower heart and respiratory rates in leukemia and other cancer patients. Music used therapeutically can "soothe the soul" by calming people going through chemotherapy and reducing depression among seniors.
Music is miraculous. It's astonishing what therapists who use music in their treatment modalities are doing. But can I bring up that this is only science catching up with what many have known for a long time? Music is not an ancillary part of life. Since now scientists are starting to be able to quantify the effects music has on our nervous system we are starting to be able prove the centrality that music has our existence as human beings. Because music is so ubiquitous in our society now, we do not see how large a role it plays in how we define ourselves, or spirits, and now, our health. What do you do when you get home after a hard days work -- you turn on your favorite relaxing music to bring yourself down. When you want to set a mood romantically, you put on some Marvin Gaye. When you get ready to praise whatever spirit you call God, you praise that entity in song. Music is hard wired into our brains, and I am tired of it's importance to our humanity being minimized, especially in education.
As a shameless plug, listen to one of my "mind expanding" songs that someone else created a video for. I don't know if it'll make new pathways in your brain, but it certainly made me feel good while I wrote and sang it. I love music.