Different musical genres have different effects on the brain. Brain imaging shows how brain reactions to various musical genres influence people’s ability to control their emotions. According to the study, guys who process their negative emotions through music have unfavourable reactions to sad and angry music.
The ability to control one’s emotions is crucial for mental wellness. Mental health conditions like depression are linked to poor emotion management. Clinical music therapists can utilise music to help their clients achieve better mood states and even to help relieve symptoms of psychiatric mood disorders like depression since they are aware of the influence music can have on emotions.
Kind of music listening and the effect it has on mental health
However, a lot of people also use solo music listening to help them regulate their emotions, and little is known about how this type of music listening impacts mental health. By combining behavioural and neuroimaging data, researchers at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Music Research at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland’s Aalto University, and Denmark’s Aarhus University decided to investigate the connection between mental health, musical listening behaviour, and neural reactions to musical emotions. Journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience published the study.
“Some ways of coping with negative emotion, such as rumination, which means continually thinking over negative things, are linked to poor mental health. We wanted to learn whether there could be similar negative effects of some styles of music listening,” explains Emily Carlson, a music therapist, and the principal author of the study.
Anxiety and neuroticism are higher in participants who listen to sad or aggressive music
In addition to having their levels of sadness, anxiety, and neuroticism evaluated, participants also answered questions on how they typically listen to music to control their emotions. Analysis revealed that participants who listened to sad or angry music to express negative sentiments, particularly among males, had higher levels of anxiety and neuroticism.
“This style of listening results in the feeling of expression of negative feelings, not necessarily improving the negative mood,” says Dr. Suvi Saarikallio, co-author of the study and developer of the Music in Mood Regulation (MMR) test.
Music and the brain’s unconscious emotion regulation process
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used at the AMI Centre of Aalto University to record the participants’ cerebral activity as they listened to snippets of joyful, sad, and fearful-sounding music in order to study the brain’s unconscious emotion regulating systems.
The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) had reduced activity in males who frequently listened to music to express their negative emotions, according to the analysis. However, there was greater activity in the mPFC in females who frequently listened to music to block out unpleasant emotions. “The mPFC is active during emotion regulation,” according to prof. Elvira Brattico, the senior author of the study. “These results show a link between music listening styles and mPFC activation, which could mean that certain listening styles have long-term effects on the brain.”
“We hope our research encourages music therapists to talk with their clients about their music use outside the session,” concludes Emily Carlson, “and encourages everyone to think about how the different ways they use music might help or harm their own well-being.”
Materials provided by the Academy of Finland. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Emily Carlson, Suvi Saarikallio, Petri Toiviainen, Brigitte Bogert, Marina Kliuchko, Elvira Brattico. Maladaptive and adaptive emotion regulation through music: a behavioral and neuroimaging study of males and females. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2015; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00466
Academy of Finland. “Music listening habits tell about mental health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151022094959.htm>.
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