The Brain-Boosting Benefits of Music from ParentTV

We’re happy to offer a new partner in parenting and youth services: ParentTV! This online resource offers short video tips from parenting experts, as well as blog posts and other material, all free with your Chandler Library card. This month’s featured blog post is on music and how it helps your child’s brain – and yours! – excerpted from the ParentTV blog.

Remember this tune that ParentTV expert Allison Davies shared a few months ago? If there’s a sweeter and more helpful earworm, we’d like to hear it! When Allison posted a video of herself singing this song on social media during the early stages of the pandemic, it went viral incredibly quickly. A lot of us still have it in our heads, and we thought it would be interesting to dig a bit deeper into the success of this tune and what’s behind it – the power of music for brains!

So, why was that little ditty so popular, anyway?

Well, Allison explains, there are a few things going on with the Every Little Cell song. First up is the musical aspect. “The brain is a musical being, and music is one of its biological languages. It’s like a mother tongue,” explains Allison. Our brains are programmed to be ultra-receptive to music, so when we add melody to mantras, they’re much more likely to stick.

Singing also prompts a dopamine release, and dopamine contributes to neuroplasticity, or brain “rewiring.” The dopamine release motivates us to repeat the experience, so we sing the words again and cement the message into our brain. Magic! Or science, really.

As well as helping us opt into the message we’re trying to send ourselves (“I will only watch one episode and then go to bed! I will only watch one episode and then go to bed!”), repetition has a soothing, warm-blanket kind of effect on our brains. Repetition means predictability for brains, and predictability translates to calm and control. If your kids are prone to a bit of the ol’ anxiety-monster, this can be a super helpful tool for their kit. “As soon as we’re even a little bit anxious, our prefrontal cortex switches off and analysis and decision-making becomes much harder,” Alison says. “These experiences then perpetuate the anxiety, so it’s better if we can keep that part of the brain online in the first place.”

Have you ever noticed how kids (and adults) can turn a bad mood around just by singing a favorite song in the car on the way to school? That’s because melody also activates the limbic system, Allison explains, which allows us to feel and move our emotions. What about how slower music can calm children down and faster music can excite them? That’s because the neural connection between what we hear and our motor cortex (that controls our movements) is very dominant, so when we sing a slower song, we can feel it in our bodies, Allison explains.

Music is for anyone, at any time. So, next time you or your kids need a little pick-me-up, you know what to do – sing it loud and sing it proud, and make every little cell in your body happy and well!

Read the full article at the ParentTV blog, or log in to ParentTV with your Chandler Public Library card number and PIN to view more videos from Allison Davies about children and the brain.