What’s in a song? The science of singing

What’s in a song? The science of singing

How is your singing voice? I’d love to tell you how good mine is but my kids would be on that like a shot; they are only too happy to tell anyone willing to listen how bad their mum is at singing. So I reserve it for the shower, solo trips in the car… or for tormenting my children.

Regardless of how good your singing skills are, there is still a great benefit to opening your mouth and belting out a song, more than you might think. And as usual, science has plenty of facts to back this up. Some of these might surprise you.

The science of singing - boy singing

Image source: Pixabay.com

Some benefits to singing  – with a dash of science

Singing can improve our mood

This one probably isn’t of any big surprise; all of us have experienced singing in our lives, whether we are willing participants or coerced into it; but we all feel better afterwards. Why is that? It seems that singing releases a cocktail of chemicals that can both calm and invigorate at the same time.

When we sing we light up the right temporal lobe of the brain, causing the release of endorphins.  These chemicals can literally lift our mood and give us a sense of euphoria.

Studies have shown that singing can also cause the release of oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that can reduce stress levels and help calm the body and mind. Oxytocin is also connected with strengthening bonds and friendships between people which is interesting as many studies have reported that people that sing together in choirs reap more benefits than singing solo. One of the observations is that people who sing together will literally synchronise their heart beats.

Singing can improve our health

The benefits mentioned above can not only make us feel happier but also reduce blood pressure and feelings of depression and isolation.

Singing can improve our breathing and our posture. It can help relieve respiratory illnesses and improves our cardiovascular and pulmonary health.

Perhaps one of the most amazing benefits of singing is the report that is can improve the cognitive abilities and well being of people suffering with dementia. It has also been shown to help people with speech impediments (such as stuttering), stroke victims and sufferers of Parkinson’s  Disease.

Singing can help us learn

Singing can alter our brain’s chemical and physical make up. it can help us exercise specific parts of the brain and can even enhance our learning. In particular, singing can help us learn a new language. Apparently singing phrases in a foreign language can help us remember them more easily and for longer.

Whatever benefit you are after, it seems that singing really might be what you need. And if you are just too shy to try it, then you can simply listen, which has lots of benefits too, but that’s a blog post for another day.

Thought of the day – what is your earliest memory?

Thought of the day – what is your earliest memory?

What is your earliest memory?  Mine is my third birthday party!  I remember getting a xylophone –  it was bright, colourful and made a lot of noise!  I sat beside the Christmas tree playing with this great new toy, my back to all my little party guests!

photo credit: fred_v via photopin cc
photo credit: fred_v via photopin cc

 

If you think back to your earliest memory you might come up with something similar to mine… well maybe minus the xylophone, the noise and the antisocial behaviour…. but you might find your earliest memories start about the same age.  Is this when we first start to form memories?  Do we need to reach a sufficient level of cognitive and language skills to do so?  Apparently not!

Studies have shown that we do form memories from a much younger age, however, these memories can be lost as we age, so, effectively our earliest memory milestone keeps moving.  Children as young as two or three may give valid events as their earliest memories but they may not be able to recall these memories if asked again a few years later.  So when do our set of early memories settle down to what we carry into adulthood?  Usually by the age of ten!

Why do most of us have our earliest memory from an event around the age of three….

  • by this age children tend to have a sufficient vocabulary to allow them express and detail their memory
  • this is usually the age where the sense of “self” develops
  • the hypocampus (the area of the brain associated with memory) has matured enough to adequately retain memories for long periods of time

 

Studies are ongoing with regard to what factors may influence our earliest memories but some interesting facts have emerged such as suggestions that females tend to have earlier memories than males and that there does not seem to be any bias towards positive or negative memories.  Also, we are as likely to report our earliest memory being of a mundane nature (like me and my xylophone) as of a significant event.  Some research that I found particularly interesting was the influence of culture on the age of earliest memory.  In cultures that promote discussion with children from a young age about themselves and their feelings and thought, earlier memories are more likely to be reported.  This is particularly true for cultures that put a strong emphasis on the past (such as New Zealand Maori).  Asian cultures tend to put less influence on a child as an individual and more on a group or national mentality, and these cultures tended to report an older age for first memories.

…just a thought!

 

What is your earliest memory?  I would love to hear your earliest memory and what age you were when the event took place!