Final Blog Post

These past two weeks were somewhat grueling, but I managed to finish my paper! As I started writing I found myself summarizing each work, as each paper outlined a significant theory. It was then that I realized that my paper would be best be written as a detailed annotated bibliography.

One point that I didn’t bring up in the previous blog posts, is the untapped potential of music in healthcare. Although music has been used in healing rituals throughout history,  music therapy is a relatively recent development. Music is an extremely powerful stress reducing agent. High concentrations of cortisol (the stress hormone) can act as a neurotoxin by prolonging inflammation and weakening neurons.  Studies show that the cortisol levels of those in stress returned to baseline more quickly when listening to music. Even when patients were put under anesthesia, music still acted as strong cortisol reducing agent. One experiment analyzed the use of music therapy with people with intellectual disabilities. The study found that those exposed to music therapy showed a significant decrease in salivary amylase activity (another biomarker of stress), compared to the control group. Although occupational therapy was found to suppress the salivary amylase activity, music therapy was found to have a greater impact. As we dig deeper into the biological origins of music, the health benefits of music are continually revealed. This is why I feel that due to the presence of music in almost all aspects of life, the evolution of music is a topic worth more in-depth research.

Throughout this project, I read a lot of many interesting articles. Unfortunately, I could not include all of the interesting information I learned in my paper. To finish off my final blog post, I decided to compile twenty of the most interesting facts I learned throughout this project. These facts require little to no background information, so take a gander if you are interested!

20 interesting facts I learned throughout this project:

  1. Part of the reason why human babies are dependent for so long, is because humans are bipedal. Due to bipedalism we have narrow hip bones, and to accommodate, babies evolved smaller heads and brains. It takes longer for the human brain to fully mature and develop.
  2. “Baby-talk” is a real scientific thing.  Mothers of mammals (humans and some kinds of monkeys) are known to speak a musical language called motherese.
  3. Motherese shares many features with music; it contains rich harmonic content, rhythm, and pitch variation.
  4. Infants have the ability to detect the slightest change in pitch.
  5. By two months, babies prefer consonant musical sequences to dissonant ones.
  6. Sensitivity to culturally specific aspects of music arises between the ages of 5-7 years.
  7. Music anhedonia is a disorder where one can’t experience emotion or pleasure from music. People who have music anhedonia have all their reward systems intact (for sex, food, material goods etc.) except for the music reward system.
  8. Active participation in creating music is shown to increase pain tolerance. Singing, dancing and drumming all trigger a large endorphin release, which is a hormone known to increase pain tolerance. 
  9. Charles Darwin wrote in one of his autobiographies that his only regret is not listening to music more often.
  10. Charles Darwin believed that speech was derived from musical notes and rhythms that evolved in our primate ancestors. He also believed that music strengthens the neural circuits involved with emotion.
  11. Music has been found to be very useful in post surgery recovery. Studies have shown that pain, anxiety, and blood pressure were found to be significantly lower when patients listened to music. 
  12. The oldest instrument, a flute made from a vulture bone, was found to be 43,500 years old. The presence of a functional instrument indicates a long history of music development well before the instrument was made. 
  13. The instrument was very likely produced by a Neanderthal.
  14. There is significant evidence supporting a music specific neural system.
  15.  As you are listening to music, you are making subconscious predictions about how the music will resolve. The pleasure induced by music is thought to be partly due to the resolution of these musical predictions.
  16. Right before the resolution and chill response, the part of the brain associated with anticipation is highly activated.
  17. Extroverts are found to like more upbeat, fast tempo music, and introverts are found to like slower, more soothing music.
  18. Humans are the only species that can interpret complex sound as music.
  19. Humans have a vast auditory memory. The auditory recall in humans is greater than a lot of other aspects of memory, which explains why we can recognize songs in a matter of seconds.
  20. Music evokes a complex neurochemical response. Pleasurable music triggers the release of dopamine, which arouses the brain reward systems. It also triggers the release of oxytocin, which is a hormone associated with social functions such as pair bonding.


  1. Hello!

    Your research sounds incredibly interesting! I often find myself getting goosebumps from the music I listen to, particularly when the music swells or the notes come together just so. I had never even questioned why I had such a physical response to music, but your summary has shown me that, for me, that the two are very closely tied.
    Though I have made absolutely no inquiries into your topic subject, your twenty facts suggest to me that music is deeply ingrained in the human brain; it is not just “auditory cheesecake,” as you quoted Steven Pinker saying. The instinctual “motherese” that mothers speak to their children, the ability of infants to recognize consonance vs dissonance, and the effects of music therapy all make me believe that music is an integral part of the human brain and the human consciousness. I can’t imagine that humans would have begun making music so many years ago accidentally, nor do I think that it would have developed into such a nexus of human society and interaction if it wasn’t hard wired into our brains.
    The number of current theories regarding music, biology, and evolution allow for a lot of breathing room in future research. It will be fascinating to see where further research takes us, and what we learn not only about our brains, but about the way humans behave as a species.

  2. cdjones03 says:

    Hi there!

    As someone who’s been a musician for most of my life, your project is very intriguing to me. I have a basic understanding of the relationship between music and the brain, but reading through your research really cleared up how exactly it can chemically trigger responses like pleasure, relief from stress, and even familial bonding. Especially when you talked about how we naturally expect or predict certain resolutions in music, I find myself doing that all the time when listening to music. Predicting certain cadences, melodies, or overall structures makes listening to music much more intellectually rewarding and dynamic for me, but now I see that it’s because it also triggers certain chemicals in the brain.

    I also like that you focused on whether our music responded to evolution or whether we evolved to better understand and “feel” music. There’s definitely merits to both arguments, but you’ve shown that regardless of which is more true, music has so much potential to heal and help us grow. Do you think that maybe certain movements in music history, or what characteristics in music are popular at certain times, could also be due to our neurological evolution and understanding of it at that point in time? It would be interesting to see just how specific and factual the research could become in this area with time. Thanks for the interesting project!

  3. Great research, I think the use of music in healthcare is so underrated. I can’t help but wonder about the effects of soothing music in doctor office lobbies, because right off the bat it would seem based on your research or similar studies that calm and soft music would have positive effects on stressed patients. However, I wonder if neural connections may play into that negatively – as in you go to the doctor’s office after several previous visits, and you’ve begun to associate this music and the smells and temperature and whatnot with a visit to the doctor that may be a consistently stressful experience for you, and now the music is less calming and more stressful. I guess I wonder at what point psychological effects of memory induced neural connections begin to outweigh the initial effects of the collaboration of brainwaves and music waves, not just in the doctor’s office example, but in research in this field in general – what if a study is conducted using music that a subject has heard before? Anyway, I think the study you’ve done is really cool, and I hope your paper inspires some change in healthcare!