Mental Health in pop culture, Music, Self Help Resources

Music and Emotions


Music makes me feel alive- well, correction, the right kind of music- I especially get a high from live music. Obviously some songs or music make me melancholy, sometimes home sick etc.

I was fortunate enough to be brought up in a house always filled with music, my parents always had cassettes, CD’s or the radio playing and in later years they took me to see some of the greats in concert.

Tonight I treated myself to see Sting & Peter Gabriel in concert, I come away from events like that feeling alive, even if I was in a dark place before, live music seems to perk me up. On my drive home it got me thinking- what is it about music that can have such an impact on the emotions and the way we feel.

There seem to be a lot of studies and views on musics impact, the diagram below shows the different areas of the brain and how music is processed and impacts them:


According to a study discussed by the Fast Company there are two kind of emotions related to music: perceived emotions and felt emotions. Therefore sometimes we can understand the emotion of the music but not always feel it. But what I am interested in is how music does make us feel- empowers us (think Eye of the Tiger in Rocky), motivates, or energises.

I have read several article in my hunt for a clear definition on how music and emotions relate. One article on music psychology from the UK combines numerous study references and seems to provide a simpler definition on the science behind music. Music hits the ear and stimulates spinal motor neurons and the vestibular (a nerves system in the ear). Music also hits three areas of the brain, when relating to emotions one of these being the hippocampus which seems to have the most significant response. The hippocampus is linked to our emotional reactions due to it’s involvement in our brains chemical stress response. The hippocampus is linked to the brains music-evoked positive response by reducing stress causing hormones such as cortisol. This still seems to add yet more questions to the debate- how does the hippocampus know what emotion is being evoked by the music and therefore reacting by reducing the excretion of chemicals?

For now I guess I have to accept that somehow music does help moods and it does this through the stress hormones, I will continue to check back on new studies on the subject and update my blog with anything that appears clear and decisive.

For now I like how Malina Mohan puts the feeling of music:

“Music is a common phenomenon that crosses all borders of nationality, race, and culture. A tool for arousing emotions and feelings, music is far more powerful than language. An increased interest in how the brain processes musical emotion can be attributed to the way in which it is described as a “language of emotion” across cultures. Be it within films, live orchestras, concerts or a simple home stereo, music can be so evocative and overwhelming that it can only be described as standing halfway between thought and phenomenon.”

13 thoughts on “Music and Emotions

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