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Like Minds Listen Alike: How Our Brains Sync with Music

Team StoryWeavers|August 30, 2021| 1

If you listen closely to the sounds around you on any given day, it’s filled with different beings communicating with each other. Dogs barking in the street, crows cackling away and humans gabbing to glory. Even the ping of chatting apps notifies that humans are talking to each other, albeit in a different form.

In this constant communication that we take part in, we sync up on information when talking to each other. But did you know that there’s a way for our brains to sync up when we listen together too? This is especially true in one particular case – when we listen to music.

Scientists across the world conducted various experiments which showed that the brains of music listeners and players synchronise when they listen to a tune together. What does it say about our brains? Let’s find out!

What is the meaning of a brainwave?

Our brains perform various functions when the complex arrangements of neurons, i.e nerve cells, in it fire electrical impulses to communicate with each other. These electrical impulses can be recorded through medical tests, like electroencephalography, where they appear in a wave-like pattern. Brainwaves refer to these patterns that show the electrical activity of the brain. When two people’s brainwaves synchronize it means that the electrical activity in their brains is similar.

An electroencephalogram showing REM sleep. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

An electroencephalogram showing REM sleep. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In studies conducted by scientists, they noticed that the brainwaves of people involved in listening to music seem to be in sync. Let’s look at the first case – the audience of a live concert.

Why do people in a live concert enjoy music better?

In one study, scientists found that when people listen to a musical performance live, in a large group, they enjoy it better. How do they know? Because the brainwaves of the audience are in sync! When testing this out in different situations scientists found that live performances lead to more synchronization of brainwaves than watching a recorded performance.

The audience in a live concert. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The audience in a live concert. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

This indicates that people enjoy music more when it’s performed in a live setting and in the company of other people! Have you noticed this at any point in your life too? Let us know in the comments!

Do musicians synchronise when they play together?

When musicians play together they have to synchronise their musical timing perfectly. However it turns out that it’s not just their music, but their brains that are in sync too. In a study that looked at the brain activity of a pair of guitarists, scientists found that the brainwaves of the players were in sync with each other when they were playing music.

Musicians playing instruments together. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Musicians playing instruments together. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Whether the guitars were playing the same tune at the same time or different parts of a tune, their brainwaves remained in sync. This finding shows that the synchronization of brain activity between musical performers may be crucial to their ability to play together.

Do audiences synchronise with musical performers?

Lastly, and at this point not surprisingly, it turns out that when people listen to musical performances live, their brainwaves sync with the performers too! In a study, scientists found that the greater the synchronisation between the brainwaves of the audience and the performer, the more the audience enjoyed the performance.

People listening to live music. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

People listening to live music. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The synchronisation in brainwaves happened in the left hemisphere of the brain, in the part responsible for empathy i.e how well we understand each others’ thoughts and emotions.

All of these studies show that even though we may not know or talk to each other when we listen to music in large groups, especially in concerts, it’s the music itself that helps us feel connected to each other at a very fundamental level! Isn’t that interesting?

Was there ever a time when a piece of music helped you feel connected to people? In what other scenarios do you think our brainwaves synchronise? Tell us in the comments below!

Liked this? Read more here!

Six Facts You Didn’t Know About the Brain

Are There Really Right-Brained and Left-Brained People?

Music and the Brain: How We Understand and Feel Music

About the Author


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Deepthi Chakravarthy

Deepthi is an ambivert who is on a steady diet of good food, filter coffee, and self-improvement. Being an ardent reader, storytelling has been her first love and she enjoys exploring how to convey stories compellingly. Having studied psychology and experienced the learning and development field, Deepthi is driven to understand human behavior and to know what makes each of us unique. You are most likely to find her tucked into a cozy corner at a local cafe with a Kindle or a book in hand. If you find her there, stop by and say hello, she'd be eager to learn your story too. Until then, you can ping her at [email protected] for anything you may like to share.

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Súnishka

September 3, 2021

did anyone know the first picture is of bts? (proud army) 🙂


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