Classical music lovers rejoice! A new study shows that listening to classical music enhances synaptic neurotransmission in the brain as well as learning and memory, and inhibits genes mediating neurodegeneration. While we envision listening to music as a simple, passive activity, it actually hides a complex cognitive function of the human brain, involving several neuronal and physiological changes.
A group of researchers in Finland has now investigated the ways in which listening to classical music affects the gene expression profiles of both music aficionados and beginners. After listening to W.A. Mozart’s violin concert Nr 3, G-major, K.216 study participants displayed enhanced activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic function, learning and memory.
“The up-regulation of several genes that are known to be responsible for song learning and singing in songbirds suggest a shared evolutionary background of sound perception between vocalizing birds and humans,” said Dr. Irma Järvelä, a researcher leading the study.
Furthermore, the listening decreased the activity of genes that are associated with degeneration of the brain and its connectivity. This could imply that music can play a role in protecting the brain against disease and deterioration.
These new findings could hold great importance for the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s and similar diseases that affect the brain, and widen the scope of the field of music therapy.