As I began my freelance writing journey, I ran across a community of indecisive people, like myself, located in the corner of the internet called the Puttyverse.
It’s a lovely place, full of lovely people, all with interests as diverse and sporadic as my own.
I fell right in place. Though I haven’t had the opportunity to dive into the community as much as I hope to, I have enjoyed pursuing the vast sea of resources pushed my way via email.
One of the fun little emails that periodically go out includes creative prompts. Prompts to get the juices flowing, to get you thinking, writing, arting… whatever it is you do.
The first prompt I received was “singing.”
“Fun! I can write about singing. I love singing.” I thought as I opened a new Google doc.
That was a month ago. A month and two days, actually.
Everything is fine.
Time isn’t real, anyway.
While I didn’t get to work due to the dumpster fire that is my life, this prompt got my wheels turning.
How does singing affect the brain?
I thought of writing about how singing physically works in the body – vocal cords and whatnot. Then the lightbulb lit up. Brain. Duh.
“Singing for your brain!” I sang to myself silently, in my brain.
Years of studies by those much more qualified and intelligent than myself have unlocked fascinating information on the effect of music and, particularly, singing on the brain.
How singing affects your brain:
♫ Neurons in your brain react specifically to singing.
A group of neurons in the brain’s auditory cortex react exclusively to voice and music. According to a study conducted by MIT neuroscientists, the same area had no reaction to regular speech or instrumental music.
Electrodes recording electrical activity in the brain were placed in participants’ skulls to obtain the information.
The electrocorticography procedure is just a tad invasive, so volunteers aren’t jumping to have their heads probed.
Fortunately for the study, this is a common technique for epilepsy patients before surgery. These patients can participate in brain function studies during their several-day monitoring period before surgery. MIT researchers obtained consent from 15 participants over the course of several years (Trafton, 2022).
♫ Singing stimulates multiple areas of the brain
Our brains are incredibly resilient and adaptable.
Belting out your favorite tune doesn’t only affect the auditory cortex—multiple areas of the brain light up at the same time when you get to singing.
The simultaneous effect greatly benefits people with an injury or impairment in one area of the brain. Singing can stimulate other healthy spaces and assist in communication.
♫ Improves mood and mental health
A UK-based study of 20 participants found benefits to mood and mental health as a result of group singing.
The Sing Your Heart Out project revealed that most participants found group singing to be one of, if not the only, most influential piece of their mental health recovery and overall wellness. (Shakespeare, Whieldon; 2018).
♫ Stimulates memory
Music is a well-known therapy for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
My own grandmother played piano well into her 80s, despite being unable to recognize her children.
Singing for the Brain, a dementia support service, encourages group vocal exercises as a therapy to improve brain activity. They utilize songs patients are familiar with to promote well-being (Alzheimer’s Society, 2022).
Another study by the Alzheimer’s Foundation discovered that singing familiar songs often helped patients remember lyrics and autobiographical memories (Joy, 2020).
♫ Singing is cathartic
The mood boost singing provides is not without explanation.
Science is uncovering how group singing lowers stress, fights depression, and enhances overall wellness
Endorphins and hormones such as oxytocin are released when you sing along with others. It turns out this is an “evolutionary reward” for socializing, and lowers feelings of anxiety and stress while enhancing feelings of trust (Horn, 2013).
Luckily for me, you don’t have to be an overly talented vocalist to benefit from a bit of song therapy.
Time writer Stacy Horn shares:
“According to one 2005 study, group singing ‘can produce satisfying and therapeutic sensations…
…even when the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.’”(Horn, 2013)
Just move along if you catch me mediocrely singing in the Starbucks drive-thru line.
I’m exercising my brain.
Let the author know that you liked their article with a “heart” upvote!