Why Your Brain Loves Music3
June 12, 2015
Every one of us has an incredible amount of choice.
By ‘us’, I mean those who are currently reading this.
Since you are reading this, you are wealthy enough to afford electronics, and educated at least up to junior high school (or perhaps higher if my writing improves).
We have the opportunity to make both sweet and sour choices, amongst the smorgasbord of situations, on time’s menu.
And yet despite this infinite rolodex of imagination, our usual repertoire may appear bland to the casual connoisseur. Humans have roughly 60,000 thoughts each day, yet about 90% are identical to the day before.
It seems the brain wants to listen to the same record, or play it to death.
It is more likely that the brain seeks 2 things. It wants predictability and consistency, so we can feel safe enough to enjoy the ride, and it seeks pleasure, as external stimuli become the mind’s chemicals.
The way the brain accomplishes this is by association, usually pairing things, that occur roughly together in time.
And by doing this, the brain looks for patterns; hoping for a familiar day’s playlist, from scene to scene.
The undulating sea of information around us churns in a chaotic soup. Our life preserver, is the brain and mind’s ability, to grasp that sinus waves and particle droplets, contain order at many depths.
Some of these bursts of stimuli, floating all around us, are particularly special. These forms are especially pleasant; unique electric complexions that capture, and organize your mind.
It is almost like different stimuli have been competing; lightning gladiators, in a quantum arena.
The victors earn a temporary place in the psyche of humanity. And the actors, in this Game of Sensory Thrones, fight desperately to stay on the internal screen. They are deathly afraid we will stop noticing.
For once the mind turns, characters are killed off, and the story heads to a different arc.
Like any type of competition, natural selection plays a role, and the stimuli that reorganize themselves to fit human desires, survive.
This phenomenon, of reorganization and patterns, is seen throughout nature, and is sometimes called evolution.
It is possible that sensory information, afraid of extinction, reinvents itself, to stay relevant to the cultural desires of humans, in ways similar to how the wolf became the dog.
These victorious energy messengers are the daily experiences that just click for almost all of us. When these familiar patterns are encountered in our day, our brains follow this mellow trick road.
Taking some of these more delectable forks in the path, allows the fondue brain, to simmer thoughts in dopamine marinade; and the body feels wonderful.
There was a 5th taste, identified in 1908, called Umami. While this ‘pleasant savory’ taste on its own is only okay, when combined with a salt, or other pairings, it synergizes ingredients, creating fireworks in your mouth.
Umami is the tongue’s best friend; because of its unique ability to organize tastes into heavenly flavors.
Foods high in Umami, such as: monosodium glutamate (MSG), fish, soy sauce, cured meats, shiitake mushrooms, green tea, aged cheese, ketchup, and breast milk, contain GLUTAMATE in a salt form, sensed by receptors on the tongue.
It is possible, that much of the chemistry you felt at dinner, on that first date, was the sushi making out with your mouth muscle.
Umami, is an example of a type of stimuli, that reorganizes information, and creates pleasure.
It may be interesting to consider, how many of your food preferences, are actually an unknowing search, for your all-time favorite order; Umami.
There is Order, and there is Chaos.
Chaos comes with excitement, but ends with Cortisol.
Order on the other hand, creates subliminal security, and the patterns themselves create our story.
Amid all the energy blips zooming around us, our brain picks out more familiar vibrations, and learns how to recognize a personal reality.
The brain then orients itself, by looking for similar patterns, so things make ‘sense’, and may ultimately become predictable.
Many of these energy textures have become close friends, organizing our minds and providing comfort; they are our life lines.
While not everybody loves math, its principle’s govern most things in the known universe, and increasing our comprehension has had large implications in how we now understand reality.
One obvious example would be Quantum Mechanics.
Music and math are related; both have patterns, their own languages, and are written on paper in specific notation. There are some similar rules inherent to both, yet on paper, a symphony or a calculus exam look wildly different, and equally complicated.
While all of d) above, are difficult to work out on paper, music is by far the most fun to do in your head!
Music is organized sound, like math is organized numbers; the specific assortments create incredible meaning.
Mothers, from the start of sapiens, have used soft soothing sounds to calm their babies.
These first lullabies have nurtured us, in a gentle maternal sound cocoon, at very vulnerable moments. This type of early imprinting has surely helped music to become fundamental to humanity, and no recorded human culture has been without it.
Interestingly, many of these same sounds and notes are used, in songs and chants, during meditation. These would include ‘UMM’, and ‘OMM’ type sounds.
Music certainly has had a long love affair with humans, dating back to our earliest ‘civilized’ times. We know this because some of the oldest artifacts ever unearthed, were musical instruments.
Music may dissolve pleasantly in your brain, the way Umami melts in your mouth.
An example of a potential recipe for Umami, applied to sound, may be found on YouTube. There is a YouTube video, of someone playing the ‘4 chords’ on piano: G, C, D, and E minor. In doing so, they were able to recreate Top Ten Hits, by the dozens.
Even though I didn’t like all of the songs, I watched the whole video, unable to stop myself from humming along.
Here is the link…
While Umami speaks to us in a delectable dialect, music sits at a small table, in the chorus of universal languages. That short list also probably includes; math and chance, memory and consciousness, and life and death.
Perhaps, we were created to enjoy music, giving the Universe yet another way, to experience itself.
While there is no sound in a vacuum, the electromagnetic vibrations that exist in space can be reverse engineered. We can now tune in and listen; there is music playing, on the vacuum radio station, throughout the vast, mostly empty channels, of our universe.
Check this out…
Music may have super overriding properties in our brains. It was once thought that the hemispheres were functionally divided.
The Left, or Dominant in most people, was thought to be the centre for Language, Math, and Reasoning. Whereas the Right side was thought to be the Creative side, that processed Art and Music.
What we now know, is that music is stored many places throughout the brain.
Your collections, of note constellations, are distributed, like the stars throughout night’s sky.
This fact certainly explains many interesting findings neurologically. If someone has a stroke, and loses the skill of reading the newspaper, their pre-existing ability to read music is often preserved. Even those unable to talk can often still sing. Those left without coordination enough to put on a jacket, are still able to play piano. This amazing thing also happens in advanced dementia.
We all have certain types of music that cause a polarizing response, just Beliebe me on this one.
But there are also those certain melodies, usually tailored by Swift, that your brain can’t stop salivating feely good chemicals over, despite your reluctance to lose any remaining street cred you have kept into your 40’s.
Tune in next time, to learn about how music shakes it like a Polaroid picture throughout your brain, the more engaged with the music you become!
Simon Trepel, MD
Note– Taste is another fascinating sensory experience, with so many interesting aspects. Did you know, for instance, that carbonation is actually a taste, not the action of bubbles bursting on the tongue?
Note– Chefs sometimes create ‘Umami Bombs‘, by combining several foods that are high in Umami.
Note– Other foods with this organizing flavor include: fermented and aged meats and vegetables, ripe tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, spinach, celery, shrimp pastes, shellfish, and nutritional yeasts.
Note– Major food companies like Nestle, Campbell’s Soup, and Frito Lay have all attempted to use Umami in their products, to make them taste better.
Note– Malcolm Gladwell apparently linked the power of Umami to the popularity of ketchup.
Note– If you want to learn more about Umami, here is a helpful article…
Until next time!
Simon Trepel, MD
Simon Trepel, MD FRCPC, is a practicing Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, in Winnipeg, Canada. He is an Assistant Professor, at the University Of Manitoba, in the Faculty of Medicine, and the Co-founder of the GDAAY Clinic. He is, more importantly, the proud Father of 2 beautiful Daughters. He writes in his spare time about things he knows something about, and occasionally about things he doesn’t; like Yoga, and Italian flavored coffees. He was not referring to coffee that tastes like an Italian person.
Check out his Blog, called Simon Says Psych Stuff, at