When to Binge on Music (and When to Give Your Brain a Rest)

If you’re a fan of music (and who isn’t?) then you’ll have no doubt binged on your favorite tracks while you’re carrying out a daily task.

Whether you’re working on an essay or running around the block, music is there to help get you get through certain situations. In fact, according to researchers from the Wake Forest School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina Greensboro, music can help improve your focus in certain situations.

Assessing the MRI results of 21 participates listening to various genres of music, people actually have more focus when they listen to their favorite songs. For example, let’s say you’re a fan of Kongos and you’re busy listening to their latest release, Take It From Me, while you’re doing an assignment. Thanks to the hum of the accordion and “slick guitar stomp”, the track tickles your fancy and that, according to the researchers, switches our brains into its “default mode network”.

When we do this, we’re able to filter out what’s going on around us and, instead, focus on our own thoughts. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, your favorite track doesn’t actually make you focus on that, but on your own thoughts and, therefore, the task at hand. In line with this research, scientists have now created special tracks that are actually designed to enhance our focus based on the findings from studies such as those carried out at the Wake Forest School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

Music to Match Your Brain: Music for Games
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Thanks to companies such as music@will, productivity can actually be increased by matching your tastes with its list of tracks. In fact, according to Business Insider’s Alex Heber, the service actually works extremely well as they were able to stay “in the zone” for longer and, subsequently, get more work done.

Another testament to the power of binging on music when we’re trying to increase our focus comes from the poker world. The game is a complex mix of mathematics, psychology, focus and self-discipline and many of the game’s top players actually use music to aid their sessions. Because online poker is less interactive than live poker, pros with millions of dollars in earnings swear by music as a means of improving their games.

Through a combination of Spotify and Apple, players sponsored by PokerStars such as Vanessa Selbst have created their own track lists for aspiring players to follow. Why would anyone follow Selbst’s PokerStars track list? Well, for starters, she’s won $11,728,256 from live poker tournaments and hundreds of thousands more by playing online cash games with buy-ins starting at $10,000+.

Another reason to tune into the track list and pick out songs such as California by Joni Mitchell and Untitled by Mumford & Sons is that it’s a tried and tested method in the gaming world. The top gamers in the world playing games such as League of Legends and StarCraft will listen to certain tracks as they stream their antics via platforms such as Twitch.

Wanting to emulate these virtual stars, players will actively search to compile a “gaming” track list based on the top pros of the day. From reddit to dedicated gaming sites, players and pros alike will list the songs that best help them concentrate and, therefore, play better.

It’s Not Always Sweet Music
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So if theory and practice prove that music can aid your performance in certain areas of life, there must be times when it can be a hindrance? Writing an essay, exercising, playing games and meditating can all be enhanced with a music binge, but what about proofreading a document or driving a car. According to a study by Brodsky & Slor, 2013, young drivers were more likely to make a mistake while listening to their favorite music while driving.

Focusing on 85 participants aged 17 and newly qualified drivers (within seven months of passing their test), the study found that a driver’s favorite songs made them drive more aggressively and become more distracted. However, when they were given specially selected tracks to listen to, this essentially served as ambient background noise and helped drivers perform better behind the wheel.

Taking this concept a step further it’s possible to say that tasks requiring acute attention to detail, such as proofreading a document, can also be negatively affected by listening to your favorite tracks. Of course, the research only focuses on newly qualified drivers who are prone to making more mistakes than experienced ones. However, it does suggest that a music binge isn’t always advisable.

 Binge on Music but in Moderation
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While you might be a huge fan of Fifth Harmony and their “highly-anticipated sophomore album”, it probably isn’t a good idea to blast it our while you’re driving. However, if you’re in the mood to play a game or run around the block then by all means plug in your headphones and off you go.

As with all binges, you have to take things in moderation. For example, if you read our recent piece about prosciutto week and indulged in endless pounds of the distinctly flavored meat, you probably wouldn’t want to binge on it for very long.

Binges, whether it’s music, meat or anything else in life, need to be carefully measured. If you can use music to increase your focus then go for it, but make sure you don’t overdo it in certain situations otherwise you could find yourself hitting some bum notes.

Can you listen to music and concentrate? What kind of music would you choose according to the activity? Let us know using the hashtag #BingeOnMusic

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3 Responses

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  1. twanikanicole@gmail.com'
    Twanie
    Apr 21, 2016 - 12:25 PM

    I’m digging your latest New Music Monday entries. I’m always up for being put on to new sounds.
    I actually do NMM as well, maybe I can put you on to something new too?

    Head over & check out this weeks playlist! http://www.str8calistyle.com/2016/04/new-music-monday-418.html

    Have a good one,
    -Twanie

    @Str8CaliStyle

    Reply
  2. sintakurnaedi@gmail.com'
    bandar bola
    Jun 16, 2016 - 01:00 AM

    Pretty! This was a really wonderful post.

    Reply
  3. LynnAmaya@dispostable.com'

    I can listen to music and concentrate. What kind of music would I choose according to the activity? To be honest, I would choose any kind of music, including but not limited to classic.

    Reply

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