Music, The Brain, and Mental health… from childhood to old age

The relationship between the music, our brain, and mental health in the different stages of our life is most interesting. It touches on a number of subjects related to left brain vs right brain development, the role of language, and the role of music in acquiring different skill sets and thinking styles related to different brain functions. The below discussion builds on different sources including the tiger mom’s blog, and a study whose results where published in the daily mail newspaper.

What Music can Make Kids become more Creative/Intuitive and Psychologically Healthier, Developing an Advanced Right Brain not just Left-Brained People? Could be that Mandarin (main language in china), because it is a tonal language (each letter can be pronounced in one of four tones) helps develop right brain thinking more by innately integrating music into its structure ??

Brain Waves

The below figure shows and explains some left-brain and right-brain functions, illustrating some of the differences between them.

keep in mind that most schoolwork is left-brain: It focuses on Math/Science, Logic/Reasoning, and Details/Order, Verbal/Words.. so how can we help balance this with a child’s right brain development?

Fields such as Music/Arts, Imagination/Creativity, Random/Holistic, risk taking/intuition, sequence/structure train the right brain, but how much training is enough ?

We can look at different patterns of brain waves to get a more in-depth look at this phenomena.. Our brain waves fluctuate throughout the day as we engage in various activities, but we can also purposely speed up or slow down your brain waves to achieve different objectives.

For example, closing your eyes and taking a deep breath are two common ways to slow down your brain waves. You can’t close your eyes while you work, of course, but you can listen to alpha wave music that slows down your brain waves, so that you can access the highest part of your intellect.

The below figure shows different types of brain waves…

Types of Brain Waves: There are four kinds of brain waves, indicated by the frequency of the waves. Here they are from fastest to slowest.

Beta brain waves : heightened activity. This is the brain frequency of doing daily tasks. It is the frequency of rational and analytical thought.

Alpha brain waves – Awake, but relaxed. You experience this right as you fall asleep and as you wake up naturally without an alarm clock.

Think about remembering something really important, or experiencing a Eureka! moment as you fall asleep or wake up.. These are the effects of being in alpha state.

Theta brain waves – REM sleep, where we experience emotion; Delta brain waves – Deep sleep or unconsciousness

So what are the benefits Alpha waves and being in Alpha state?

Faster learning and better reception of information happen in alpha state, (great for studying or concentrating).

Alpha state is perfect for problem-solving, because one sees the grand scheme of things, allowing for big-picture thinking.

Creativity increases in alpha state.

Alpha brain waves also increase intuition.

Alpha Wave Classical Music

Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder’s breakthrough book Superlearning popularized alpha wave music discussed the idea that music at 60 bpms (beats per minute) can induce alpha waves.

Some movements of Baroque Classical music have been shown to induce Alpha state, particularly pieces from Bach’s Cello Suites, the Largo from “Winter” from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” and music by Handel and George PhilippTelemann.

The tempo of these pieces relaxes you and slows the brain down to the optimal frequency to reach alpha state. It stimulates alpha waves in both the left and right hemisphere of the brain, allowing you to access intellect and creativity together.

Listening to the right music while learning to stimulate alpha waves can after long-term training, increase creativity and intuition.

Language and The Brain

Mandarin (the most used language in china) characters(patterns) have 4 tones(music) each.. a letter can be read in one of four tones.. This seems to help in training the right brain several hours a day.. Can this ‘musical’ aspect of mandarin be a factor in increasing intelligence and creativity on the long term??

Also english letters are more abstract compared to Chinese characters, which are patterns, again meaning that mandarin invokes the right brain more in pattern-recognition activity.

On another level, playing video games and fancy 3-D scenes train the right brain, but the trade-off is crowding out other learning. Also spending more time in listening to music on a daily basis, excites the right brain.

Music and Long-term mental health

Another dimension is the relationship between practicing playing music and long term mental health. Playing Music is a good activity to empower the right/creative brain, and can probably enhance thoughts and memory links.. Connecting logical (left-brain) with emotional (right-brain) thoughts helps improve memories of both types of experiences…

Piano practice can seem to be the bane of a child’s life – but there might be an added benefit for it. This study has found that learning a musical instrument as a child can keep you sharp into old age.

The study proved a correlation between Pensioners having had piano, flute, clarinet or other lessons as a youngster, and doing better on intelligence tests than others. And the longer they had played the instrument for, the better they did! The American Psychological Association journal Neuropsychology reports.

University of Kansas researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy:

‘Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of ageing.

‘Since studying an instrument requires years of practice and learning, it may create alternate connections in the brain that could compensate for cognitive declines as we get older.’

This is the first study to examine whether thoe effects of children’s studying of music can extend across a lifetime.

The study included total of 70 healthy adults between 60 and 83 years old who were split up into groups depending on musical experience. Those with musical backgrounds did better than the others in various cognitive tests.All of those with musical backgrounds were amateurs who had started playing an instrument at around 10 years old, of which  more than half played the piano, with others playing the flute, strings, clarinet, percussion or brass.

Additionally those who had played music longer scored better at the tests, illustrating a link to the length of experience as well. Also, high-level musicians who still played at an advanced age produced similar results to the most skilled players who had given up.

This concludes that the duration of the musical study was – interestingly – more important than whether they continued playing in their older years.

Dr Hanna-Pladdy said:

‘Based on previous research and our study results, we believe that both the years of musical participation and the age of acquisition are critical.

‘There are crucial periods in brain plasticity (versatility) that enhance learning, which may make it easier to learn a musical instrument before a certain age and thus may have a larger impact on brain development.’


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Shredded Similes, Mutilated Metaphors

For your entertainment, actual similes and metaphors found by high school English teachers from across the country in their student’s essays.

– Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

– His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances, like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

– He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

– She grew on him like she was a colony of e-coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

– She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

– Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

– He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

– The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

– The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

– McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

– From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

– Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

– The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

– Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

– They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.

– John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

– He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

– Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

– Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
– The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

– The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

– He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

– The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

– It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

– He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

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Interesting Quotes from the Movie Wall Street

Wall Street is an interesting movie, that portrays different images and struggles within the world of business and finance – regardless of whether the director (Oliver Stone) was actually really biased against powerful corporate and finance professionals. It draws the images of wealth, power, ambition, maturity, and many truths and anecdotes from the corporate world… definitely worth watching. Below is a selection of funny and deep quotes from the movie.
Gordon Gekko: Lunch is for wimps.
Carl Fox: Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others.
Gordon Gekko: The richest one percent of this country owns half our country’s wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It’s bullshit. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you’re not naive enough to think we’re living in a democracy, are you buddy? It’s the free market. And you’re a part of it. You’ve got that killer instinct. Stick around pal, I’ve still got a lot to teach you.
Bud Fox: How much is enough?
Gordon Gekko: It’s not a question of enough, pal. It’s a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn’t lost or made, it’s simply transferred from one perception to another.
Bud Fox: Sun-tzu: If your enemy is superior, evade him. If angry, irritate him. If equally matched, fight, and if not split and reevaluate.
Lou Mannheim: Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.
Gordon Gekko: The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
Gordon Gekko: What’s worth doing is worth doing for money.
Gordon Gekko: I don’t throw darts at a board. I bet on sure things. Read Sun-tzu, The Art of War. Every battle is won before it is ever fought.
Gordon Gekko: If you need a friend, get a dog.
Gordon Gekko: The most valuable commodity I know of is information.
Gordon Gekko: Greed captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Gordon Gekko: Ever wonder why fund managers can’t beat the S&P 500? ‘Cause they’re sheep, and sheep get slaughtered.
Carl Fox: Money’s only something you need in case you don’t die tomorrow…
Gordon Gekko: It’s all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation.
Bud Fox: There’s no nobility in poverty.
Gordon Gekko: If you’re not inside, you’re *outside*!
Posted in Finance, Economics, and Accounting, Fun & Humor, Philosophical, Psychology, Sociology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Real Cost of Obesity

It is very interesting to see the actual total monetary costs of obesity to society.. Needless to say that ‘real’ (i.e. social, emotional, etc..) costs are much more important. But the below information from Mckinsey helps give a closer look at the ‘economic’ costs.. It might also be important to compare the ‘incremental profit’ of the fast food industry and compare..

An obesity pandemic has put pressure on health care systems throughout the world. The United Kingdom, for instance, spent more than £4 billion on obesity-related medical costs in 2007, and that could rise to £9.7 billion by 2050. The United States currently spends about $160 billion—twice what it did a decade ago—and that amount could double again by 2018.

Yet these huge numbers represent only a fraction of the pandemic’s total economic burden on societies. Obesity indirectly costs the United States at least $450 billion annually—almost three times the direct medical cost. The situation is comparable in other countries as well. To learn more, read “Why governments must lead the fight against obesity” (October 2010).

Posted in Finance, Economics, and Accounting, Health, Personal Development, Sociology, Studies | Tagged , , , , |

On Motivating People ( From Jim Collins’ Book: Good to Great )

“Spending Time and Energy trying to ‘motivate’ people is  a waste of effort. The real question is not ‘how do we motivate our people’. If you have the right people they will be self-motivated. The Key is to not de-motivate them. One primary way t ode-motivate people is to ignore the brutal facts of reality”

Jim Collins: “Good to Great”

For Resources on Leadership – Visit the Management, Leadership, & Strategy Library:

Posted in Business, Leadership, Management, Psychology, Strategy, Thinking and The Mind |

Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law

or The Rising Pyramid

Work – it is said – expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. ‘It is the busiest man who has time to spare’. A lack of real activity does not necessarily result in leisure, and a lack of occupation is not necessarily revealed by a manifest idleness. The thing to be done swells in importance and complexity in a direct ratio with the time to be spent.

C. Northcote Parkinson

As interesting this statement is, and considering the improtant light it sheds on our use of our time – not just filling up the idleness, one is inclined to think about personal time management habits, and our allocation of our time to work, instead of allocating work to our time .. An interesting duality, that extends itself to themes related to determinism and taking charge of one’s own circumstances… Important in its links to proactivity in creating one’s future self, based on current allocation of work to available time (NOT time to available work) [ present self = sum of experiences of the past self ]

Posted in Business, Finance, Economics, and Accounting, Management, Selected Readings, Sociology |

Brain Teaser .. Truth-teller – Liar (from KhanAcademy)

Posted in Fun & Humor, Knowledge & Education |

Linkedin’s Most overused buzz words

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network with more than 85 million members worldwide, today released the most overused words and phrases in members’ LinkedIn profiles. The top 10 terms that are overused by professionals based in the United States are:

“Phrases like ‘extensive experience’ and ‘proven track record’ can appear empty to a potential employer and may do more harm than good when you include them in your profile or resume”

1. Extensive experience
2. Innovative
3. Motivated
4. Results-oriented
5. Dynamic
6. Proven track record
7. Team player
8. Fast-paced
9. Problem solver
10. Entrepreneurial

“We have the unique ability to uncover interesting workplace trends in our data given the high volume of people with profiles on LinkedIn,” said DJ Patil, LinkedIn’s Chief Data Scientist. “In this case, we wanted to reveal insights that help professionals make better choices about how to position themselves online whether they are reaching out to new clients or networking with peers.”

“Phrases like ‘extensive experience’ and ‘proven track record’ can appear empty to a potential employer and may do more harm than good when you include them in your profile or resume,” said Lindsey Pollak, a career and workplace expert. “If you’re using any of these 10 terms, wipe them out. Instead, note that you have eight to ten years of experience or that you increased sales by 300 percent. Include meaningful phrases that apply specifically to highlights you’ve achieved in your career.”

“The holidays are the perfect time to give your profile and your resume a makeover, since you don’t have to worry about the everyday hassles you face when you are in your cube,” Pollak added.

Posted in Fun & Humor, Knowledge & Education, Management, Personal Development, Sociology, Studies |


“every theory makes a bargain with reality” M. Sahlins

“Every theory trades certain kinds of knowledge at the expense of other kinds of knowledge. to put it more forcefully, every knowledge comes at the expense of a certain kind of blindness”  G. McCracken

Posted in Education, Fun & Humor, Knowledge & Education, Psychology, Selected Readings, Thinking and The Mind |


Bertrand Russel Said:

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”

Interesting …. “Clarity”, too much of it, means lack of wisdom ? Is it the unsureness that surrounds the thought of human beings that dictates that, or the mere fact that the human capacity (and potential) of knowledge is so limited compared to the vastness of the universe that we inhabit?

Or is it simply that these two are one?

Posted in Knowledge & Education, Philosophical, Thinking and The Mind |