There are few activities in life that utilizes the entire brain, and music is one of them.
If you want to firm up your body, head to the gym. If you want to exercise your brain, listen to music.
"There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does," says one Johns Hopkins otolaryngologist. "If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout."
Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and pain as well as improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.
Experts are trying to understand how our brains can hear and play music. A stereo system puts out vibrations that travel through the air and somehow get inside the ear canal. These vibrations tickle the eardrum and are transmitted into an electrical signal that travels through the auditory nerve to the brain stem, where it is reassembled into something we perceive as music.
Johns Hopkins researchers have had dozens of jazz performers and rappers improvise music while lying down inside an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine to watch and see which areas of their brains light up.
"Music is structural, mathematical, and architectural. It's based on relationships between one note and the next. You may not be aware of it, but your brain has to do a lot of computing to make sense of it," notes one otolaryngologist.