Have you ever been in a situation in which you are listening to music with a friend and he starts telling you a story from his past that you have never heard before? If you really pay attention, you’ll notice the sense of nostalgia as he tells you the story. At that moment, you may ask yourself, “Where is all this coming from?” Well, it’s the music!

Music and Memories

Scientists have discovered an intricate connection between music and memories. This information is now being used to help patients suffering from memory loss. The fact that music triggers many areas of the brain makes it a key tool to help the memory storage area.

When you listen to music, you use multiple areas in your brain (Doctors Video). You use a different part of your brain to understand the language, process the rhythm, tap your foot, and sing the lyrics. Your hippocampus is the main structure for memory storage in the brain, but the cool thing about music is that it is not all stored in that one structure. Although some of my memories become fuzzy, others can be triggered by music. Via The Odyssey Online

friends enjoying music together
Image Courtesy of Flickr

Why Music?

You may ask is why music triggers memories more than other things. The reason behind it is that music evokes our emotions in a unique way. It is common to find people listening to some kind of music when they are stressed or happy or sad. There is a way that we connect to such music in a very personal way. Here’s an example:

For example, when I was about four years old, I had a concert in my room to Britney Spears’ “(You Drive Me) Crazy” which was on the NOW 4 Cassette Tape — there are now 58 NOWs). I put pillows on the ground for seating and made tickets, and when the time came I rolled up my shirt so I was showing my tummy like Britney. The bed was my stage and I rocked it, and I will never forget that funny memory when I hear that song. I still remember most of the words! Via The Odyssey Online

How Music Is Personal

It is possible to find that the same song can have different meanings for different people. We are all very unique, which is why we do not respond to music in the same ways. A song that makes one person happy could actually annoy someone else because of the memory attached to it.

This discovery is being used to help people suffering from memory-related conditions, as described below:

internal view of the brain
Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

The Music and Memory Organization has used this form of memory to benefit others. They “help people in nursing homes and other care organizations who suffer from a wide range of cognitive and physical challenges to find renewed meaning and connection in their lives through the gift of personalized music.” Music has sparked memories in various patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s because although one part of the brain might not be working, other parts are still able to remember the music. Via The Odyssey Online

Music in Life

We often take for granted how much we use music in the special events of our lives. Music is typically present at parties, celebrations, birthdays, graduations, weddings and even in funerals. Perhaps it’s because the music relates to what we feel. As a result, music creates strong emotional bonds between us and the people sharing the event with us.

Memories may be one of the main reasons for the enjoyment of music. We listen to songs to revisit and relive personally meaningful or pleasant times from the past. For example, one study asked young adults to choose and describe one musical piece that they considered especially meaningful. The most common reason a piece was meaningful to the respondents was because it had a role in helping them overcome challenging or difficult life events. The second most common reason was the positive memories it elicited. Via Sync Project

Music-related Memories

Research has found that memories triggered by music are more intense than memories triggered by other things.

In research literature, memories arising during music listening are investigated under the term music-evoked autobiographical memories (MEAM). Via Sync Project

illustration of people connected
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

This information is now being used to help people recover very personal social information, as described in the post below:

According to research MEAMs are usually highly emotional, and perhaps more so than memories triggered by other things. A comprehensive study on the types of memories that music evokes showed that the emotions associated with MEAMs were most often described as happy or nostalgic. Another special characteristic about MEAMs is that they are often also very social – the situations that people most reported remembering in the study, were social situations between friends and romantic partners, like dancing or driving in a car together. The situations that bring us together often contain music, and perhaps music through its power to enhance our emotions makes these situations stick to our memories particularly well. Via Sync Project


If you want to keep your memories vivid for a longer time, keep the music playing and your old playlists handy. In the future, you will remember your best moments as if they happened yesterday!

Featured Image: Image Credit

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music-n-memory-1It’s official. We’ve now surpassed 3,000 MUSIC & MEMORY℠ Certified Care Organizations in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe. In just the past eight months, Music & Memory has added one thousand more care settings, as personalized music continues to demonstrate a host of therapeutic benefits:

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Growing evidence supports field observations that personalized music can be a viable alternative to antipsychotic medications. Via Music and Memory


Eva Bradley: Music shapes memories

music-n-memory-2What is the soundtrack of your life?

We all have one, but few of us stop to consider this, and even fewer could compile it if compelled to.

Yet that is exactly what I am trying to do right now after a devastating digital disaster that has wiped my carefully curated Spotify playlist and taken with it so much more than a collection of songs.

Psychologists have long been aware of the power of music to stimulate implicit memory and launch us into the past in the way few things other than perhaps photographs can do.

As a person who struggles a lot with explicit memory – the factual “I did this that summer” kind – I rely on more emotive, subconscious-acquired cues to relive and remember my past. Via NZ Herald


Music and Memory Program

music-n-memory-3The Music and Memory program (recently featured in the movie Alive Inside you can watch the trailer here) commenced in the Heart of America Chapter in the summer of 2014. Following the successful national implementation in New York, this program highlights, and utilizes, the power of music. Because music is stored in many areas of the brain and is a basic part of what makes us human, using music associated with personal memories helps reach and engage the person with dementia even as memory fails. Using personalized music can help to decrease the instance of difficult behaviors, connect with loved ones at any stage of the disease, improve communication, and increase overall quality of life. Via Alz