The Benefits of Studying with Music

Man Listening to HeadphonesWith that highly detailed Biology exam just around the corner, you have been hitting the books with every spare second you have. During nightly, starlit studying sessions, you continuously trudge past midnight, and the hours multiply. What if there was a more beneficial practice rather than spending hours upon hours of silence in your bedroom?

The Theory

You have likely heard before that music helps you study. But, do you know why parents and professors alike are urging you to tune to iTunes? Studies have shown that music produces several positive effects on a human’s body and brain. Find out music’s effect on your body and brain, and see how to enhance your studying with songs!

Familiar Student Stress

In the middle of a busy semester, students’ stress runs high. This is the perfect reason to review your class notes with music playing, — it is proven to help reduce stress! The University of Maryland Medical Center reveals that students should “listen to music. Music is an effective stress reducer in both healthy individuals and people with health problems. Research finds that listening to soothing music can decrease blood pressure, heart rate, and anxiety levels in heart patients” (UMD Medical Center). This statement reveals the powerful effect songs alone can have on the human body. So, power on the radio to help combat stress before heading to a study session.

Do You Struggle with Test Anxiety?

Anxiety can become a crippling blockade between students and their textbooks. How can students beat it? Let’s pretend you were offered a free, soothing massage during each study session for the duration of your college years. You would feel lower levels of anxiety and tension as you reviewed your notes. While this might be a difficult feat for the typical college student to attain, the next best thing is readily available to pupils all over the world. Believe it or not, USA Today reveals, “one study found that music’s effect on anxiety levels is similar to the effect of getting a massage” (Christ). It is official; your favorite tunes can reduce anxiety as much as a massage! Anxiety-stricken students should pop in the ear buds before heading to the library. They will feel relaxed, at ease, and ready to conquer chapter after chapter.

Performance

Music is found to help people perform better in high-pressure situations, such as the bi-annual high-pressure event that is finals week. Studies have shown that music can help students transform from coal to diamonds, shining under pressure. USA Today asks, “Want to sink the game-winning shot when the pressure’s on? Listen to some upbeat tunes before the big game. . . basketball players prone to performing poorly under pressure during games were significantly better during high-pressure free-throw shooting if they first listened to catchy, upbeat music and lyrics”(Christ). This relates to anyone combating high-pressure situations, including you and your studious peers! Grab that 80’s style boom box and turn the volume up!

Music, the Cure All

So, you arrived at the last Conquistadors basketball game, prepared to perform better after a little music therapy. Excited and energized, you played all of your best moves on the court, until you sprained your ankle landing a slam dunk. Ouch! Now, every time you attempt to study, your mind only focuses on the pounding pain in your ankle! Have you tried studying with music? According to USA Today, music is so powerful to the body that it can actually help ease pain. Studies show that music can “meaningfully reduce the perceived intensity of pain, especially in geriatric care, intensive care, or palliative medicine” (Christ). Your ankle pain and your midterm stand no chance against your favorite album and focused mind!

Pay Attention

Rather than distracting college students, a Stanford study found that “music moves [the] brain to pay attention.” Researchers utilized musical compositions from the 1800s in their study, and found that “music engages the areas of the brain involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating the event in memory” (Baker). They believe that music choice was influential on brain processing, revealing, “The goal of the study was to look at how the brain sorts out events, but the research also revealed that musical techniques used by composers 200 years ago help the brain organize incoming information” (Baker). Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven can help students categorize information, which is an influential asset to studying.

Happy, Healthy Brains!

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to listen to music during a study session is because music is proven to help improve cognitive performance. Basically, music helps your brain function! “Background music may enhance performance on cognitive tasks. One older study found that listening to music allowed test takers to complete more questions in the time allotted, and get more answers right. More recent research suggests that whether or not music improves cognitive function depends on whether the music first improves a person’s emotional state” (Christ). If you want to improve brain performance while studying, evidence now shows that you must first improve your emotional state by listening to music that you enjoy!

Music, Memory, Emotions

Several studies in recent years have linked music, memory, and emotion. To back this claim, Petr Janata has conducted two studies to prove that music, memory, and emotion are linked. His initial study found that “music serves as a potent trigger for retrieving memories.” During his second study, Janata took a Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of students’ brains as he played popular songs from their childhood and teenage years. “After each excerpt, the student responded to questions about the tune, including whether it was familiar or not, how enjoyable it was, and whether it was associated with any particular incident, episode or memory” (UC Davis). This study reveals that music, memory, and emotions and strongly linked. This evidence supports the theory that studying while listening to music is a very beneficial practice.

Bonus!

We now understand that music and memory are strongly linked in the brain, and that music can be beneficial to studying. All that studying, however, has made you exhausted! You close the textbooks, and lay beneath your blankets, but your mind is still buzzing from all of the information you’ve acquired. Can’t sleep? Well, music can even help you close out the night after studying. “Listening to classical music has been shown to effectively treat insomnia in college students, making it a safe, cheap alternative to sleep-inducing meds” (Christ).

We Want You to Be the Best

Florida National University (FNU) is dedicated to helping our students succeed. While you continue to excel at FNU, please take advantage of our helpful resources. As the semester comes to a close, gain tips from our blog article, “10 Ways to Prepare for Your Final Exam,” and don’t forget your headphones!

If you are not currently enrolled at FNU, browse our programs of study and apply now!

Works Cited

Baker, Mitzi. “Music Moves Brain to Pay Attention.” Stanford School of Medicine. Stanford School of Medicine, 01 Aug. 2007. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.

Christ, Scott. “20 Surprising, Science-backed Health Benefits of Music.” USA Today. Gannett, 17 Dec. 2013. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.

“Stress.” University of Maryland Medical Center. University of Maryland Medical Center, n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.

“Study Finds Brain Hub That Links Music, Memory and Emotion :: UC Davis News & Information.” UC Davis News & Information. UC Davis, 23 Feb. 2009. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.

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