Consider the sound of a robin’s chirp outside your bedroom window. Or the rhythmic syncopation of raindrops on the roof. They are comforting, they are soothing, and they set the stage for brain activity that is good for us.
On the other hand, the sounds of jackhammers and bombs exploding are jarring, disturbing, and have opposite effects.
It’s not just anecdotal. Sound is one of the five elemental senses — and the sounds we hear can create calm or chaos, stoke creativity or catastrophe.
That’s backed up by the latest neuroscience research into how brains process sound — from the simple steady beat of a drum to the rich resonance of a full orchestra — and how humans can be enriched in the process.
The connections between sound and psychological well-being, intelligence, and more have been well documented by a bevy of recent studies. For instance, musical training doesn’t just improve your ear for music — it also helps your ear for speech. That’s the takeaway from a recent study published in The Journal of Neuroscience. Researchers found that kids who took music lessons for two years didn’t just get better at playing the trombone or violin; they found that playing music also helped kids’ brains process language.
New studies are being conducted all the time, including a recent one focused on music enrichment programs. It provided the first direct evidence that community music programs enhance the neural processing of speech in at-risk children, suggesting that active and repeated engagement with sound changes neural function.
How does this happen?
It’s all about the brain. The brain depends on neurons. Whenever we take in new information — through our ears, eyes, or skin — those neurons talk to each other by firing off electrical pulses. These we call brainwaves.
Brainwaves, as it turns out, are heavily affected by three common denominators — pitch, timing, and timbre — and the brain uses the same basic circuitry to make sense of all of it.
These are the findings that Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT) took into account in the design of its industry leading therapeutic sound-based programs.
For instance, ABT’s inTime method has helped people with a range of diagnoses from depression and anxiety to dementia and other conditions. The inTime program is a personalized program of listening training and beat-based activities using body, drum, and voice to stimulate changes in self-regulation, sensory-motor function, and interaction.
The ability to synchronize movement to a steady beat relates to the brain’s response to sound — the positive effects of which are well documented by neuroscientists. And, musical training with an emphasis on movement synchronization to musical beats can improve brain synchrony. inTime was created to engage multiple brain regions through a combination of music, rhythm, and beat-based activities, helping children, teens, and adults stimulate improved focus and stress response.
There’s a similar foundation undergirding ABT’s The Listening Program, emphasizing that brain performance can be maintained or improved by engaging in healthy sound practices (not unlike the understanding that physical fitness is improved through exercising the body).
The Listening Program involves listening to acoustically-modified instrumental music through high-quality headphones, or the Waves multi-sensory audio system to reduce stress, improve focus, self-regulation, learning, memory, and more.
Applications of the program are wide ranging, from rehabilitation, to wellness and peak performance; in settings ranging from schools, hospitals, therapy clinics, assisted living facilities, companies, athletic and music programs, in homes, and on military bases.
There are sounds in the universe that we do not control. But modern research shows that there are sounds we can introduce that make a world of difference to our brains, and help us to function at higher levels than would otherwise be possible.
That’s one thing that should sound good to anyone who is listening.