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How music affects your five senses. Kind of.

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Genevieve Pitre

on 10 January 2014

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Transcript of How music affects your five senses. Kind of.

How music affects your five senses. Kind of.
More like, "How music affects your four of your five senses and memory instead of smell".
Okay, so let's review. What are other four senses?

1. Sight

2. Taste

3. Touch

4. Hearing

We'll pretend that memory is a cousin of the five senses. Like one big family.


So, you're all probably thinking
"What the heck? How would music affect sight?"
And that's a reasonable reaction. Music does not contribute to one's sight in a huge way, but it does still connect.
Have you ever heard anyone say while they're driving, "Hey, turn the music down, I can't see!"? If you've heard that you probably thought the person was just mixing up they're words or something, or if you said it you probably thought that you just made a mistake or whatever. But did you know, there is actually a relation between these two things? Research shows that when your music is loud, it doesn't matter what kind of music you listen to, but your reaction time WILL be slower than normal.
Your brain is focusing on the motor task, in this case, driving. It is also paying attention to the surrounding environment, both inside and outside the vehicle. Are there pedestrians near by? Or, if you're in Newfoundland, can you see any moose in the distance? Your brain is then also processing the music or other noise.

Because your brain has to focus on so many things in this situation, the struggle for control begins. Your brain is trying to keep a balance of all of this, and the more it has to process, the longer it will take you to react to that moose jumping in front of your car. And you could die!

However, this study says that different people have this affect at different levels. It says that if you find it easier to drive with music playing, by all means, go ahead! Though no one can perform to their optimal ability if the music is blasting, so it should be kept to appropriate volumes. And because no one wants to hear you blasting "What Does the Fox Say" when they are in another car.
Yeah-- no.


This study was tested on both men and women, and it turns out that men were listening to hard rock, even if it wasn't loud, their driving was poor. However, for women, their driving was worse only when the hard rock was loud.

Now, let's move on to the next sense. Taste. I'm sure this time you're all thinking,
"Okay, Genevieve. I think you're insane. I don't think listening to music is going to affect the way I taste my food."
But don't be too quick! Research taken part in at the University of Manchester says it does! According to an experiment, participants were blindfolded and fed an assortment of sweet and savoury foods. Such things included biscuits, rice cakes, cheese crackers and flapjacks. While eating the food, the participants listened to "white noise" on a pair of headphones. Once finished, each participant was asked to rate the intensity of the flavours, and how much they enjoyed them.
As a result, people seemed to lose their sense of taste while listening to the white noise. When the participants liked the background sound, such as when the white noise was not as loud, they seemed to enjoy the flavour of the food more. Mean while, when they disliked the noise, they also disliked the food.
On an interesting note, the study says that this may be why air plane food has a poor reputation, due to the sound of the engines interfering with the pleasure of eating. Or it may relate as to why you don't seem to like the food on your plate during Christmas because your Aunt Marge has the voice of nails on a chalk board and loves to talk.
Another part of the same experiment looked at taste and crunchiness. It was found out that, as the volume of the white noise increased, the individual's perception of the crunchiness increased. However, at the same time, their perception of the strength of salt or sugary flavours decreased. The study seemed to suggest that sound may affect the perception of the freshness and the palatability of the food. This means that you might find that the salad you ordered at a restaurant with loud music is crunchier than usual.

A similar experiment looked at how one tastes wine in correspondence with sound.

The same team of researchers are trying to develop the perfect soundtrack to a meal. One that doesn't distract one from the meal too much, but does not gauge the senses.

Moving on to the next sense; touch. Now, in all honesty, this was not an easy subject to look up, because when people put music and touch in the same sentence, they seem to think,

"Music and touch? Why, music touches your heart of course!"

So I decided to be clever and sway the meaning of touch; to aggressiveness and that sort of.. stuff! What I mean is how aggressive does music make us. Because although music and sound in general can soothe us and make us feel calm and relaxed...
During a study in Israel, researchers noticed the effects of chanting before football (well, soccer) games. Of course, the researchers did take into consideration that athletes can become more aggressive when their is a large audience, lots of fouls, and noise in the stadium.
Anyways, male fans had been asked to take part in a collective chant before heading out to watch the game, and then filling out an aggression measuring questionnaire, the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory (or the 'BDHI', for short). This was also done after the game with another group of fans. Before the game, researchers predicted that those who chanted after the game would be less aggressive than those before the game. They also believed that those who chanted during the game would be more aggressive than those who didn't. As a result, their theory followed through.
"Wait, why is this? What?"

Now, now, now. Let me explain. The researchers involved in this experiment have come to a conclusion that when so many voices are raised together, it could result in a "contagious emotional atmosphere". This, in turn, may lead to feelings of anger and aggression and acts of violence.
The researchers now want to find out, when two teams from the same country are playing, if playing the national anthem throughout the events would help to ease any aggression or violence, as they hope that the crowds would feel a sense of unity and bonding and love!

Hearing is obviously something that relates to music. When you play really loud music, not only can it affect your sight as mentioned earlier, it can also affect your hearing. Although you might like to blast "Bohemian Rhapsody", that mega loud guitar solo could temporarily, or permanently damage your ears. As in you could go deaf.

As an example, this is why Mr. Geddis wears well hidden ear plugs in his grade 9 classes. When you are surrounded by this loud music, or maybe the just obnoxious sound, it can permanently damage your ears. Now when I said you could go deaf as a result as loud sound, you could also develop tinnitus. Tinnitus is a medical term for "ringing in the ears". Now some you may had the experience before, where maybe you just came out of a dance and you feel as if your ears are still ringing, or maybe you can hear just this loud ringing when you're sitting alone in your room. But Tinnitus is a constant ringing. When you have tinnitus that sound is with you all day everyday, and keeps going through the night, maybe waking you up. Now, to distract from the noise, many people with tinnitus like to listen to loud music so they can try to block that ringing out, but that only makes the situation worse. This could make the tinnitus louder, or it could eventually make you deaf.
"Turn that music down, ya' whippersnappers!"
So maybe the next time your Grandmother asks you to turn your music down, you should.

So, let me tell ya, your brain is AMAZING. It is constantly processing different bits of information and deciding which little bits are useless and which little bits are useful and which little bits are a bit of both. And it's actually fairly easy to put those bits of information into your brain, but what is difficult is taking them out. Music provides rhyme and rhythm, and often alliteration. This structure is said to be the key to unlocking information stored in your brain. Sort of like a cue. For example, someone may ask you to remember the lyrics to a One Direction song, but you might find yourself having to sing the song in your head before being able to give an answer.

The catchy tune itself may not be the factor that makes it stay in your mind, but rather the overall structure of the song. Melodies encourage repetition which result in memorization. This is why many people believe that patients with Alzheimer's or Dimentia are able to sing along with familiar songs.
Gil and Denise

Most neurologists believe that music and dance were created purely to help retrieve information. Ha, who needs fun!

Psychologists believe that stories, customs and laws were presented in the form of chants and poems, eventually turning into songs, so they that could be recalled correctly when telling large amounts of information throughout the years.

Thanks for listening!

But if you slept through it I hope you got a lump of coal for Christmas.

Now what if you could see, taste, and feel what you hear... all at the same time?
You heard correctly!

Synesthesia is a blending of all of the senses, where in one sense simutaneously produces sensation in a different sense. For example, people with synesthesia (synesthetes) feel sounds, taste shapes, hear colours, and more. Different synesthetes have different combinations of senses. This is different than drug induced hallucinations, because when one may see a sound, that sound is always a certain colour, such as red. Where as in these hallucinations, the colours vary.
Synesthetes often realize they have forms of photographic memories before they discover that they have synesthesia. For example, Priscilla Dunstan, a synesthete, first believed that she had a photographic memory of sound when she was little. As her Mother played a piece of Mozart when she was about the age of 4 or 5, she was able to play the tune back on her violin, note for note (after only having heard it once).
When she first had her child, Dunstan noticed that she was able to pick certain sounds that her baby boy would make. Originally she guessed that it was just a certain language her son had in attempts to communicate with her, but after noticing other newborns of all genders, races and nationalities, she learned that all babies have the same way of sound communication.
Dunstan discovered the five sounds babies make when trying to communicate.
These sounds include:

1. "NEH" - The word for hungry.

2. "OWH" - The word for sleepy. This sound is based on a yawn reflex.

3. "HEH" - The word for discomfort.

4. "EAIR" - The word for lower gas. Imagine that your stomach muscles are tightened up, and breathe out.

5. "EH" - The word for burp. This sound is based on a reflex to get the air out.

These sounds are noticable in a babies pre-cry, rather when they are hysterically crying.
While on Oprah, Dunstan helped eight new Mothers immediately understand why there babies were crying.
Now you know how synesthesia works!
However, synesthesia is not just helpful for baby sounds, but musicians with synesthesia also find that this helps them create pieces. When synesthetes hear certain notes, they can see different colours or taste different things (as mentioned), but when composing a piece, the musicians use what colours and tastes are pleasing to them. If they don't like the colour or taste they recieve when a certain note is hit, they don't use it. However, if they like it, they do use it. The same is applied to words. If the word looks or tastes fine, it is used, and if not, it isn't. Of course, this is depending on the desired purpose.
For example, when Priscilla Dunstan hears
the name, "Derrick", she feels sick.
Anyways, as I said, some musicians
are synesthetes. Some include:

Billy Joel - Sound to colour

Eddie Van Halen - Sound to colour

Ida Maria - Sound to colour

Leonard Bernstein(has composed songs for
West Side Story, Glee, Silver Linings
Playbook, Madagascar 3, Moonrise Kingdom,
The Simpsons) - Sound to colour

Stevie Wonder - Sound to colour

Robyn Hitchcock - Multiple synesthesia

Amy Beach - Sound to colour

Most metaphors people use today, regarding poems and songs, are synesthetic. One describes a sensory experience with vocabulary that belongs to a different sense, such as, "Silence is sweet". Tasting a sound (or there lack of). Another example is "Soft or warm sound", that is used in band, applying the senses of touch and sound.

*John Burke, a pianist, made an album called "Synesthesia", in which all of the songs were named after the colours that synesthetes see.
Cobalt Blue
So there you have it, folks.

Music affects your sight.
Your taste.
Your touch.
Your hearing.
Your memory.
And sometimes even multiple senses at the same time.
But not the way you smell.
You will not smell nice if you play romantic music.
That being said you will not smell bad if you play country music.

By Genevieve Pitre
Full transcript