Music and Memory

Feb 7, 2024

Have you ever ridden along in the car when suddenly an old song from your childhood comes on? You probably remembered almost all of the lyrics. And it likely brought up some old memories from when the song was a favourite, too. Of course, this happens to everyone. The fact is that music and memory are intrinsically connected. This is all thanks to how the words associate with the beat, the two becoming tied together in your brain. When you hear the song, even after years, the beat lets your brain access the words – like magic! Moreover, the melody, rhythm, and words can enhance how your brain can access memories, making them more prominent.

Let’s examine music’s role in memory formation, how it aids memorization, and how it can be a tool to combat memory loss.

Music and Memory

Across cultures, music has long played a critical role in life’s events – both big and small. So, it’s no wonder specific songs are associated with particular memories, not to mention the emotions connected to them. In essence, when you have a life event that causes strong emotions, the music associated with the event reinforces the memory even further. It’s likely you’ve even experienced this.

A perfect example is a birthday party. Birthdays usually involve a lot of music and are generally filled with strong positive emotions. When you hear a song played at a particular birthday, chances are the memories will come flooding back along with it.

But this phenomenon is even more profound. These floods of memory apply to more than just specific events. For example, if a song was popular during a particular month or season, hearing it again can bring you back to that more general time, like a specific summer or a year at school.

Music and Memorization

If you understand how music is associated with memories, you begin to unlock a way to hone your memorization skills. Remarkably, simply listening to music while studying can help with memorization. What’s more, there are a few ways you can harness this.

One way to sharpen your memorization with music is to create lyrics based on what you need to memorize. Put them to a beat or even insert them into an existing song. When it comes time to recall the needed information, all you need to do is remember the lyrics, just like how you remember that childhood song.

Another way to tap into the power is to play a specific song in the background while you study. All you need to do is sing that song to yourself later. You’re basically using your memory’s ability to associate with music purposefully and directly.

Music and Combating Memory Loss

Unfortunately, there is no cure for memory loss or related illnesses like Alzheimer’s. However, music can help. These afflictions significantly impact sufferers’ memories and often interfere with their daily lives. Armed with knowledge of how music enhances memory, music therapists apply this to patients with such memory loss diseases.

While Alzheimer’s and dementia impact both short- and long-term memory, the degradation begins (and has the greatest impact on) short-term memory. However, music stored in long-term memory is usually still accessible.

Music therapy has helped patients with these ailments based on the way music, memories, and emotions are interconnected. The more deeply connected to an emotion a memory is, the easier it is to access. Thus, when a patient hears music from their past, it creates an emotional response and brings the memories associated with it to the surface. Regardless of how long it’s been since they first heard the song or how old the memories are, the song is often remembered, along with its associated events.

Moreover, music can be a welcome and soothing distraction for many people living with Alzheimer’s. As with everyone, music helps relax and lifts spirits. Improving mood helps lower anxiety and depression.

Closing Thoughts

The connection between music and memory is incredible. When you understand it, you can use and benefit from it in your everyday life. Whether you utilize it to supercharge your memorization or aid in general memory recall, it’s just one of the many benefits you can reap from the wonder of music.

Since 1990, The Music Studio in Toronto has focused on offering the best in music education, customer service, and value for money. These themes are reflected in the relationships we build with our students. We invite you to experience The Music Studio difference for yourself. We offer programs and lessons for all ages and skill levels, both in-person and online. Check out what we have to offer, and sign up today!