Ever since we could bang two sticks together to make a beat and blow through a blade of grass to whip up sweet melodies, music has moved the human race like nothing else. It can seem unfathomable to hear a song and try to understand why it takes you worlds away to a place of that is as raw as it is beautiful.
For the longest time, this phenomena has gone more or less unexplained. But as science progresses and more studies are done, we come to understand and quantify experiences like these that have always just seemed like magic. A recent series of studies has revealed that music can bring back those memories, be they nostalgic or tragic or anything in-between, because they make a web of connections in your brain between regions responsible for movement, creativity, and feelings all at once.
One of the more recent studies was conducted at the University of Newcastle in Australia. This study took a deeper look at how music effects patients who have suffered from crippling memory loss and other brain damages. The results from these patients were then compared to the results of healthy test subjects. The result was that the found the highest amount of ‘music-evoked autobiographical memories’, which is to say that music had the power to make the same strong connections between all the aforementioned regions of the brain despite most or any of the damage caused to the brain.
“What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head. It calls back memories of a particular person or place, and you might all of a sudden see that person’s face in your mind’s eye. Now we can see the association between those two things—the music and the memories.” – Petr Janata, UC Davis
More studies are being conducted in this area of science, and you can read full reports in journals such as Psychology Today.