Research shows our brains react differently to classical and pop music

Researchers in China have discovered that the brain responds differently to classical music than to popular forms.

Woman listens to music
A woman listens to music. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Participants listened to five clips of opera music and five clips of pop created by the researchers. A third group of seven pieces containing random musical notes was also included in the research.

The research team wrote in the journal PLoS One that the study’s findings show that “artistic music is of intelligence, while popular music is of physiology.”

Participants’ sub-cortical region of the brain responded more to pop music and the cortical area engaged more with artistic music. “In addition, the cognitive empathy regions were more responsive to artistic music than popular music,” the researchers added.

This leads to the conclusion that classical music encourages a more intellectual reaction among listeners, who engage at a higher level with a symphony than they do with a pop song. The only caution is that because this study was comparatively small, its findings will need to be replicated in further research.

Previous studies have examined the contrasting effects of classical and pop music on the brain. One demonstrated that the two genres produce opposite results when it comes to concentration, with pop music distracting students from a test while classical music proved to be much less distracting.