My fascination with music’s effects on the brain began during childhood. I remember sitting in my bedroom as an 8-year-old listening to Avril Lavigne’s 2002 album Let Go on my portable CD player. I sat for hours playing my favorite songs on repeat until I memorized every vocal nuance. Listening to music created otherworldly adventures. The sounds of my favorite songs gave me chills and vivid visual experiences. Music’s power to manipulate emotions mystified me even at a young age.
Battling mental illness as an adolescent, I turned to music, singing in particular, for spiritual grounding. I ambled through middle school in a cloud of depression that made it difficult to connect with the people around me. However, singing gave me the power to express what I could not express through words. Listening to music allowed me to experience the positive and powerful feelings I could not feel otherwise. While singing, the world around me slowed down, and I saw my environment with more clarity. Making music felt like breathing in oxygen after being underwater for too long. It helped me make sense of my life and the world I lived in.
I always wondered...how? What’s going on in my brain when I’m singing and listening to music?