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    Better DNA With Music

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    We read a lot about the scientifically-proven benefits of music education but a recent study even surprised us: music can improve your DNA.

     

    Listening to classical music can cause a surge in the “glucocorticoid receptor, which regulates stress, depression and even addictive behaviors,” notes Music.Mic, which can explain why we are so comforted by music and why music therapy has been successful in hospitals and assisted living facilities across the country.

     

    But that’s not all. Listening to music also acts as a protective shield against the “bad” genes, including those that are associated with degeneration like Parkinson’s Disease.

     

    This is the first type of study that evaluates the effects of music on a molecular level. Most studies gain information by brain scans, but researchers from the University of Helsinki tried a different approach and we’re sure other scientists will follow.

     

    Yet, the benefits of music are not evenly distributed. Only people who have musical experience — those who have spent years listening to or making music — benefit from music’s powerful effects. Those who did not have musical experience showed no difference in their genes.

     

    As if you need another excuse to learn to play the piano or sing! Start making music now and your body will benefit.

     

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    Surprised? Cats Like Cat Music

    As you’ve read before, dogs can be soothed by the sounds of human music but leave it up to cats to be more finicky.

     

    Recent research shows that cats do not care for human music and much prefer music tailored to their heartbeats, personal interests (e.g. birds) and vocal range. If you have ever been awakened late at night by a yowling alley cat, you know what we mean by vocal range. Researchers, hailing from the University of Wisconsin, Madison created a medley of tunes, catering to the cat’s playful side (what they call sonic catnip) as well as more soothing tunes. One is even aligned with the rhythm of purrs, which is remarkably consistent among all cat breeds.

     

    The research team’s website, which is appropriately titled Musicforcats.com, includes music samples and you can download three full-length songs for a fee. The sonic catnip tune is way too fast for our liking, although we thought the tweeting of birds was a nice touch. We much preferred Rusty’s Tune, which is slower.

     

    What makes this music different from the other cat CDs and music-centered television shows that are already available?

     

    According to the Musicforcats website: “To the best of our knowledge, this marks the first time that an art form has been shown by scientific test and observation to engender the measurable appreciation of any species other than human.”

     

     

    In fact, a study revealed that cats rubbed the speakers with their faces when cat-centered music played while Bach’s music did not elicit a response.

     

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    News Apps Will Help Medical Researchers Study How Music Affects Our Bodies

    We know music therapy can help reduce pain, treat autism and uplift the spirits of Alzheimer’s patients. But are there ways music can heal the body that we don’t even know about yet? Technology has improved so much that you too can help new scientific efforts to study of music.

     

    The Sync Project, based out of Boston, has created an app to see how music affects the human body and is looking for volunteers. Basically, you just listen to your favorite music and it records pertinent biological information such as your heart beat. This approach vastly increases the number of people being studied and that’s a good thing. “With millions rather than dozens of participants, and vastly more data, the hope is that Sync’s scientist collaborators will arrive at surer answers, to better deploy the power of music to heal,” reports BetaBoston.

     

    This is just the beginning of the convergence of medical research and our mobile devices. Apple has partnered with some hospitals including Massachusetts General Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and created five apps that will study asthma, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

     

    “Users who download any of those apps can track their symptoms and share that data with researchers. Apple adds a layer of privacy to protect the identity of patients, reports BetaBoston.

     

    Technology is vastly changing our lives and these efforts will really change medical research. We’re optimistic about these advances. What do you think?

     

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    If You Don’t Use Your Singing Voice You Lose It

    We know that a lack of exercise can weaken leg, arm and back muscles and affect an athlete’s performance. Now science has shown any significant break in singing can affect the quality of a singer’s voice.

     

    Calling it a “use it or lose it” phenomena, researchers from Northwestern University and University at Buffalo gathered three groups of singers—kindergarteners, sixth-graders, and college students—and asked them sing back a musical sequence they has just heard. Researchers noticed overall improvement from kindergarten to eighth-grade in singing accuracy or, in other words, the ability to sing on pitch. The adults, however, did not fare well. On some of the tests, they scored just as high as the kindergarten groups, thereby showing a regression in ability.

     

    Why did the adults get worse over time?

     

    Steven Demorest, professor of music education at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, and his colleagues believe that we become less musical over time. Singing is encouraged early in our lives, from educational songs that we sing in  elementary school to the middle school choir that’s open to any and all students. Yet, researchers fear that over time, our voice becomes judged and we’re told quite bluntly that we’re tone deaf or we don’t have it, as if singing were some innate talent. So, we stop singing and, with lack of practice, our realize our own low expectations.

     

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

     

    Singing is “a skill that can be taught and developed, and much of it has to do with using the voice regularly,” Demorest says.“Our study suggests that adults who may have performed better as children lost the ability when they stopped singing.”

     

    So, go ahead and sing. Keep singing because, with time and guidance, you will get better.

     

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    Everything Is Awesome

    It turns out that singing your favorite song and going to a concert and may help you live a longer, healthier and happier life.

     

    A research team from UC Berkeley found that people who reported a sense of awe had lower levels of cytokines, or less inflammation in their body. High doses of cytokines can cause several health problems such as heart disease, depression and autoimmune diseases.

     

    While music is one of the major contributing factors to creating a sense of awe, other experiences can also help stir that emotion such as listening to religious sermons, walking in nature and looking at a beautiful work of art.

     

    The study confirms something we know intuitively; positive emotions are good for our health. Add in a nutritious diet and lots of sleep and you’ll feel like a superhero!

     

    Jennifer Stellar, on of the study’s co-authors says that finding time to participate in awesome experiences is important.

     

    “Rather than seeing a walk through the park or a trip to the museum as an indulgence, we hope people will view these kind of experiences as important ways to promote a healthy body in addition to a healthy mind,” Stellar said. “Folding these kinds of positive experiences into your daily routine may be more important for health than we previously realized.”

     

    We couldn’t agree more!

     

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    The Science Behind Earworms

    It happens when you least suspect it.

     

    Your child is a singing a song she learned at school. All of sudden you’re singing the song too, first with her and then through the rest of the day.

     

    You are bored at work. Then, you start singing a tune you don’t even like but you cannot stop singing it!

     

    The phenomenon, often called having an earworm (or scientifically known as involuntary musical imagery), is a real thing that affects up to 92 percent of people at least once a week. Online news site Mashable decided to delve into the subject and figure out the causes earworms and how to get rid of them.

     

    Causes:

    • As predicted, repeated exposure to a song will increase your chances of it being an earworm but the song still needs a trigger. One trigger could be your memory. Say, for instance, you sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at a baseball game. The next time you step foot in the stadium you start humming the tune. Another trigger could be visual. As Mashable writes: “You see a kid with a red balloon, and maybe right that moment, maybe an hour later, maybe even the next day 99 Red Balloons is rattling around your skull.”

     

    • Also, never underestimate your brain’s need to be entertained. If you are doing something boring and repetitive, your brain may just try to liven things up by implanting an earworm.

     

     

    Cure:

    • Stimulate your mind with another activity.

     

    • Do a form of musical exorcism. Listen to the song in its entireity — even if you don’t like it — and and begin singing along to give your brain the closure it needs.

     

    • Find another song to replace your earworm. However, this is a tricky process because you don’t want to have the replacement song become your earworm.

     

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    Getting A Date May Be As Simple As Playing Music

     

    If you’re looking for a love interest this Valentine’s Day, ditch the flowers and candy and crank up the music!

     

    Research conducted by Japanese scientists found that attraction and feelings of romantic interest between potential mates increased dramatically if their encounter included music playing in the background.

     

    The research, published in the Psychology of Music, evaluated 32 participants in their 20s. They sat at a table while strangers visited and talked to them, according the Wall Street Journal. After 20 minutes, the strangers would leave and another set of unknown people would enter. In some instances a wide variety of music would be playing, anything from rap to classical music to rock.

     

    Once the conversations ended, the young people were asked to rate the strangers based on 10 traits that varied from patience, confidence and interest in dating. The strangers who engaged in conversation while music was playing scored higher than those who talked without music.

     

    “Music affects neurochemical systems in the brain that may enhance the interpersonal impressions formed during those conversations …” according to the wall Street Journal that cited the research paper. “Potentially stronger effects might occur if subjects chose their own music, they said.”

     

    Is there anything music cannot do?

     

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    You Can Thank Your Parents For Your Musical Preferences

    You already know that you can inherit your mother’s eyes and your father’s nose but did you know that you can inherit their taste for music too?

     

    Researchers at Cornell and UC Santa Cruz have been studying the role nostalgia plays in our music preferences. They know that young adults are preferential to songs that were popular in their tween and teen years because it helps them recall fond memories (For more information on the relationship between music and memories, read this blog post).

     

    But what researchers discovered next was interesting.

     

    They learned that 20-somethings also have a penchant for songs from the early 1980s and from the 1960s. Why?

     

    According to Priceonomics, parents and grandparents’ played the popular songs of their youth before and after they had children. These tunes then became a part their ancestors musical DNA.

     

    As The Altantic noted: “Just as nostalgia tends to confer more nostalgia, popularity also tends to build on itself: Once a song makes it to the top of the charts, the memories people associate with it help to keep it in our cultural consciousness.”

     

    So, while you may laugh at the quality of music today, keep in mind that 20 years from now, young kids will have a nostalgic feeling when they hear Pharrell’s “Happy” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”

     

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    Is The Heart The Key To Beethoven’s Success?

    Perhaps no other composer’s health has been dissected as much as Ludwig van Beethoven. He continued producing great works of music despite deafness, while also living with other ailments including cirrhosis and syphilis.  Now, a new report suggests that some of his genius can be attributed to an irregular heartbeat.

     

    A broad spectrum of researchers from musicologists, cardiologists and historians focused on three of Beethoven’s compositions and studied their beats and change of rhythms. They noticed that, whether fast or slow, rhythms were irregular in certain sections. This type of music was in sharp contrast from the music his contemporaries created, making Beethoven unique.

     

    Given all of Beethoven’s  ailments, why would heart disease relate directly to his work as a composer?

     

    The Los Angeles Times explains: “He composed the bulk of his music even as the sounds of the world around him dimmed — and that, say the authors of the new study, may have made him exquisitely attuned to his own heartbeat.”

     

    Dr. Joel Howell, one of the authors, offers further explanation to The Science Times:  “The synergy between our minds and our bodies shapes how we experience the world. This is especially apparent in the world of arts and music, which reflects so much of people’s innermost experiences.”

     

    What do you think? Do you think the state or our health can reflect and inspire or professional work?

     

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    The Universal Appeal of Music

    Music’s ability to have our favorite tunes feel so personal and unique makes it such a special experience. Yet, recent research proves that certain aspects of music are universal, and it doesn’t matter if you live a city or one of the world’s most remote villages.

     

    A group of researchers played clips of some of Western culture’s most popular music – from Star Wars to Pyscho to Schindler’s List – along with indigenous music from Mbenzélé Pygmies who live in the Congolese rainforest. While wearing medical devices that monitored their heart and breathing rates, participants were asked to describe how the music made them feel ( i.e. calm, happy) by selecting an array of emoticons.

     

    Both groups agreed that slower-paced music felt calming and faster-paced music felt exciting. Yet, the Montreal city dwellers reported a wider range of emotions to the music they heard, including negative emotions. The Pygmies, who have a tradition of using songs to uplift spirits, reported more positive emotions to songs they heard.

     

    “People have been trying to figure out for quite a while whether the way that we react to music is based on the culture that we come from or on some universal features of the music itself,” says Stephen McAdams, from McGill’s Schulich School of Music. “Now we know that it is actually a bit of both.”

     

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