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Useful And Fantastic: Music As Noise - Part 5

Val Yule concludes her series on the effects of loud music.

Questions arise which demand answers.

Is it the noise itself that is attractive in loud music, rather than the music itself?

Can loud noise become addictive?

If loud music is addictive does life become boring without it?

Can very loud electronic music become an addiction to the noise itself rather than the music?

Many students, including some high-flyers, claim that loud background music helps them to concentrate on learning. I can see how it could help drum in, literally, rote learning, but the argument for learning with understanding and reasoning has not been proven. Psychological studies indicate the difficulties of attending to two tasks at the same time.

Today the State is concerned about lots of ageing people aabout to budren the population, and there are recommendations like doing crosswords to keep the brain active and avoid going senile. Loss of hearing also increases possible helplessness.

Some researchers think that long-term exposure to intense sounds such as power tools or loud music can increase the loss of hearing, especially of high frequency sounds. This occurs becuase of gradual changes in the inner ear. This is considered to be a contributor to the decline in cognitive ability.

Humans survive through their adaptability, but adaptation to noxious pleasures usually comes at a cost. Can alternative pleasures be offered to teenagers to replace ghetto-blasters?


‘ It's hard to exaggerate the effect music can have on the human brain. A mere snippet of song from the past can trigger memories as vivid as anything Proust experienced from the aroma of his petite madeleine. A tune can induce emotions ranging from unabashed joy to deep sorrow, and can drive listeners into states of patriotic fervor or religious frenzy, or soothe the savage beast. Yet in spite of music's remarkable influence on the human psyche, scientists have spent little time attempting to understand why it possesses such potency.’ - Michael D Lemonick in a Time maagazine article.

"We tend to think of music as an art or a cultural attribute," notes Robert Zatorre, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal, "but it is a complex human behavior that is as worthy of scientific study as any other." He helped to organize a conference, "The Biological Foundations of Music," sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences, at which experts in disciplines ranging from neuroscience and neurology to brain imaging and psychology met to exchange notes about what's known and what’s not known about the brain and music.

What seems clear is that the ability to experience and react to music is deeply embedded in the biology of the nervous system, mostly in the rght hemisphere, but different networks of neurons are activated, depending on whether a person is listening to music, playing an instrument, and whether the music involves lyrics. But for the players, at least, music can evidently trigger physical changes in the brain's wiring.

While "loud" is often associated with Rock concerts, 300 or 3000 voices when on key produces a body-shaking power: you can feel it as hurt in the eardrums and the shaking of your song book. Therefore, "church" concerts produce the same effects as Rock concerts at some level:

"On pages 90, and 131, of this book Battle for the Mind Dr. William Sargent, a leading scientific authority on the human nervous system, writes, "Electrical recordings of the human brain show that it is particularly sensitive to the rhythmic stimulation by percussion and bright light among other things,
and certain rates of rhythm can build up recordable abnormalities of brain function and explosive states of tension sufficient enough to produce convulsive fits in predisposed subjects.

Of the results caused by such disturbances, the most common one is temporarily impaired judgement and heightened suggestibility.

One doctor said "In my practice I have found that the academic records of many small children improve considerably after they stop listening to rock music while studying.'

Consider the following types of damage that takes place in our bodies under exposure to loud volume.

Loud volume slows down our ability to memorize and do other brain functions by constricting the flow of blood to the brain. In the words of Dr. Arnold Scheivel, professor of medicine at UCLA and an expert on brain growth, "If there is a bottom line, it is that no neuron is healthier than the capillary that supplies it.

We have a very strong feeling that in the capillary supply system is the story of the maintenance or slow decline of the brain." How does volume effect blood supply? The blood vessels undergo a narrowing of caliber in the presence of loud sound. This narrowing decreases the flow of blood to the different parts of the body, including the mind. A person studying under the influence of loud music has a decrease in the amount of blood flowing to the brain. This makes it more difficult to memorize and to understand their studies.

Loud music can cause a form of schizophrenia. When a person is exposed to high level sound, a chemical is formed in the brain that is normally found in schizophrenia patients in mental institutions. A music therapist, investigating the effects of loud music, gave an emotional stability test to 240 teenagers while they listened to music.

Martin Polo, the director of Audio Visual Services at UCLA and noise consultant for the aerospace industry and related technologies writes, "Lastly, the presence of continued exposure to high level sound can trigger psychopathological impacts on individuals."

These impacts can range from depressions noted among females during the menstrual period to actual presence in the brain of chemicals normally found in schizophrenia and psychosis. There are a number of other interesting reaction to the presence of high level sound which involve the brain, including interference with vision.

Loud music can cause ulcers. When susceptible individuals are exposed to loud sound over a period of time, certain stomach functions are disrupted and an increase of hydrochloric acid is released, causing ulceration of the stomach. Martin Polon of UCLA writes, "The continuing exposure to high energy sound creates a stress reaction in the body that significantly involves the gastrointestinal system. Certain stomach functions are disrupted by abnormal contractions of the abdominal area, and increased infusion of hydrochloric acid causing dyspepsia. Recurring activation of this syndrome will lead to peptic ulceration in susceptible individuals.


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