Listening to Your Favourite Music Increases Brain Plasticity

Andy Hab
3 min readNov 17, 2021

Oh come on, it can’t be that simple?!
True it does sound too simple and easy doesn’t it! Remember when everyone thought that listening to Mozart would increase cognitive ability and intelligence? It was found out that any music you like lifts your mood and hence performance on subsequent cognitive tasks — but then again that knowledge is still not to be sniffed at.

You’ll still have to convince me that this is not a scam headline!
Ok, so let me be precise. Corrine Fischer et al. from the University of Toronto report that “…repeated listening to personally meaningful music induces beneficial brain plasticity in patients with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s disease.”

Ok getting better and how did they actually measure this plasticity?
So, first off this was a small study (most brain scanning studies are). 14 participants listened to selected autobiographically relevant music for one hour a day for three weeks. They had brain scans before and after this and the differences were noted. Also during the scans they listened to different types of music to see what was happening.

You said autobiographically relevant music?
Yes, and this is the key. Technically it is not just favourite music but music that has meaning. For example, they quote the music you danced to at your wedding.

Ok that’s an important distinction — and what did this do?
So, it seemed to have wide-reaching impacts with differences in activation of different regions and different evidence for plasticity in connections and white matter.

And other music didn’t do this?
They didn’t measure this over time but they measured it in scanners. Music they selected that was more recent and similar in style to their preferred music activated auditory regions mostly — as to be expected. But autobiographically relevant music activated much wider regions including prefrontal regions which we know are related to executive function (planning, calculating, and inhibition control), but also subcortical regions.

So much wider brain activation with meaningful music…
Precisely, and this is…

Andy Hab

The brain and human behaviour, in business, society, learning, and health.