Fri Dec 04 2020

A Dive Into Neuromusicology - Or How Music Effects The Brain

How music can transform productivity 

Silence. An untitled google doc page. Two empty tea-stained mugs and an even emptier white wall. A wondering dust particle in the sunlight. Working from home can have its good days and bad days, and the current state of my desk would imply that it was the latter. 

After doing some research, it appeared that I wasn’t the only one who sometimes struggled to be productive at home. It also appeared that a main solution was music, and it was quite heavily backed by science. So, I scrolled through Spotify and started playing a very depressing, piano-heavy playlist called ‘music for concentration’, which made my situation seem a lot more dramatic sounding than it was. But it worked. The words started flowing. If it was the placebo effect or merely the coffee kicking in I don’t know, but I found the vast research behind sound and productivity interesting. So that’s what this article is about.

Music can affect emotions by decreasing stress, anxiety, depression and even confusion. That will not be a surprise to most people but is still important to remember. Neuromusicology is the study of how music affects the brain, which is slightly more complex and where it starts to get interesting. It turns out the brain areas affected by music varies from person to person depending on personal experiences with music, but there are patterns that can discern what types of music are more helpful than others. 

For example, I find songs with lyrics distracting, particularly when writing or editing, and this seems to be common with others too. Although it can help some people be more efficient when carrying out mundane tasks, by distracting them from boredom. There are various other studies which show how music is a valuable tool according to an article from Mission.org: like a 1994 study showing that the accuracy and efficiency of surgeons improved when listening to music and a 2005 Psychology of Music study which revealed that music helped software developers produce better work. 

There is also other research which shows that ambient noise is the best replacement for silence, like a hoover or light indistinguishable conversation especially without the background noise of an office when working at home. Continuous, moderate (70 decibels), and natural noise is the best ambient background sound to help creativity, mood and productivity. 

Music therapy can also be used to change your mood if you’re feeling particularly stuck. A technique called the ‘iso principle’, where the first tracks match your mood and following songs change gradually to encourage productivity instead of forcing it from the beginning, is apparently very effective. ‘Power songs’, tracks that are typically based around 121bpm with a positive sound, are proven to be the best for productivity and can be  strategically placed in a playlist to give you an extra boost. 

So next time you hit a mental block and find yourself drowning in unproductivity, music might just raise you to the surface and get you back on track. 

Have you heard? 

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