How does music improve mood state?

Music exposure increases Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) in the hypothalamus. This factor protects neurons from the damaging effects of stress and it decreases the overactive stress system in stress related disorders such as major depression. The antidepressive effect of music could be mediated by an increase in hypotahlamic levels of BDNF.

Music is also associated with decreased Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in the hypothalamus. NGF is increased in stressful conditions such as depression and it activates the stress system. A reduction of NGF may contribute to a decrease of the stress system and enhance the anti-stress effect of music.

These effects were shown in a study with 20 mice. They exposed 10 mice to new age type music. Daily 6 hours during wake for 21 consecutive days. 10 other mice were treated the same way as the experimental mice besides the exposure to music. After this period the researchers studied the hypothalamus of all mice. They found an increased level of BDNF in the mice exposed to music and a decreased NGF level in this same brain region.

The effect of other types of auditory stimuli (other music such as funk, hip hop or noise) was not investigated. Different types of music or noise might produce different effects.

What kind of music do you look and lifts your mood? Let me know in the comments
ANGELUCCI, F., RICCI, E., PADUA, L., SABINO, A., TONALI, P. (2007). Music exposure differentially alters the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and nerve growth factor in the mouse hypothalamus. Neuroscience Letters DOI: 10.1016/j.neulet.2007.10.005

Effects of stress and BDNF’s link in depression.

Exposure to stress and the stress hormone corticosterone has been shown to decrease the expression of BDNF in rats, and leads to an eventual atrophy of the hippocampus if exposure is persistent. Similar atrophy has been shown to take place in humans suffering from chronic depression.

Music used: The Romantic Sea of Tranquility, by Enya; The Heart of Reiki, by Merlin’s Magic; Zen Garden, by Kokin Gumy; Feng Sui, by various artists.