How Important Are Music and Art to Your Happiness?

5 Jan

Here is something you will find very interesting, especially if you like to listen to music or look at art.

Researchers have reported the first real-world demonstration of what happens in the brain when people observe artwork.

A team of University of Houston scientists analyzed brain activity data collected from more than 400 people who wore EEG headsets as they viewed an exhibit at the Menil Collection, offering evidence that useable brain data can be collected outside of a controlled laboratory setting.

The researchers said that conducting a study in the lab is artificial and they wanted to look at how to measure brain activity both in action and in context.

Compared with baseline readings, they found significant increases in functional, or task-related, connectivity in localized brain networks when the subjects viewed art they considered aesthetically pleasing.

By looking at brain activity alone, the researchers could predict with 55 percent accuracy whether the participant was looking at a complex piece of art, a moderately complex piece of art, or a blank wall.

Researcher Dr. Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal notes, “I don’t think we will understand the mystery [of how art is created]. The conception of art is a very individual process, built on the artist’s experiences, skills, memories, values and drives. But we will know what happens in the brain. We might find that there are people who are very attuned to visual art, or to music, or poetry, and there might be an underlying common neural network. If we know that, we could optimize the delivery of art for therapy, for teaching.”

What About Music?

One thing is clear, our eyes are amazing and very complex. Here is something you probably know: Pupils reflexively adjust— getting bigger and smaller— based on the amount of light available at any given time. Light makes them contract and darkness makes them dilate.

Now for something you probably do not know: Pupil size is also controlled by thoughts, emotions, and mental effort. For example, pupils dilate when viewing an exciting image or while working on a difficult mental task—like a hard math problem.

Sounds can also affect the pupil. For example, pupils can dilate when a person listens to two people argue. Everyone knows that music can create strong emotional reactions in people, but pupil dilation in response to music had not been systematically studied until now. In a recent study, a joint research team from the University of Vienna and the University of Innsbruck, both in Austria, found that listening to a romantic opera dilated listener’s pupils.

In participants who claimed music plays an important part in their lives, the research team observed the participants’ pupils dilated to a greater degree during more arousing parts of the opera compared with calmer sections.

In other words, it seems the more importance you place on music, the more of an emotional impact it may have on your life. The team notes future studies will involve other musical genres so they could see how the results from this study extrapolate.

Lead researcher Dr. Bruno Gingras adds, “Our research clearly demonstrates that pupil size measurement is a promising tool to examine emotional reactions to music. Moreover, because pupil responses cannot be voluntarily controlled, they provide a direct access to listeners’ preconscious processes in response to music.”

What About Sad Music?

In 2013, a team of Japanese researchers found that sad music might actually evoke positive emotions… which is why such songs are so popular. The researchers explain that sad music evokes contradictory emotions because the participants in their study tended to feel sad music to be more tragic, less romantic, and less blithe than they themselves felt while listening to it.

According to the researcher team from Tokyo University of the Arts and the RIKEN Brain Science Institute: “Music that is perceived as sad actually induces romantic emotion as well as sad emotion. And people, regardless of their musical training, experience this ambivalent emotion to listen to the sad music… Emotion experienced by music has no direct danger or harm unlike the emotion experienced in everyday life. Therefore, we can even enjoy unpleasant emotion such as sadness. If we suffer from unpleasant emotion evoked through daily life, sad music might be helpful to alleviate negative emotion.”

It should be noted that other research has shown possible negative effects associated with listening to sad music in some people. According to researcher Dr. Suvi Saarikallio, “Analysis showed that anxiety and neuroticism were higher in participants who tended to listen to sad or aggressive music to express negative feelings, particularly in males. This style of listening results in the feeling of expression of negative feelings, not necessarily improving the negative mood.”

Don’t forget, if you ever have any questions or concerns about your health, talk to us. Contact us with your questions. We’re here to help and don’t enjoy anything more than participating in providing you natural pain relief.

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