Six ways your brain processes music


Human mind and emotion can be profoundly affected by sounds.

When we listen to music, multiple reactions take place in our brain.

A study at Lund University in Sweden identified six ways the brain processes music. We found them quite interesting…

Brainstem Reflex One or more fundamental acoustical characteristics of the music are taken by our brain stem to signal a (potentially) important and urgent event.

e.g. When a sudden volume shift makes you jump.

Emotional Contagion We perceive the emotion expressed in the music, and then we mimic this expression internally.

e.g. The ‘blue’ notes in a worksong are felt as particularly sad or as having deeper meaning.

Evaluative Conditioning When we come to associate a place with certain sounds or songs thanks to repeat listening.

e.g. When an Ella Fitzgerald song reminds you of that café where you had your first job.

Visual Imagery We conjure up visual images while listening to specific music.

e.g. A calypso beat makes you think of the beach.

Episodic Memory The music evokes a memory of a particular event in our life - the reason why this is often referred to as the Darling they are playing our tune phenomenon.

e.g. a romantic song reminds you of a first date.

Music Expectancy The way we recognise musical structure and how we feel when one of its features violates, delays, or confirms our expectations about the continuation of the music.

e.g. when the classic 4/4 backbeat of a House track briefly drops out to build anticipation before the ‘peak’.

READ MORE:Music Licensing Explained: Why it's illegal to use Spotify (UK)Working from home? Focus better with musicHow to curate music for relaxation and meditation

Related Articles