The Music-Memory Connection

By Anita Garner

I read an article by Judy Jones about boosting memory in general and it contains a fascinating sidebar.  The work of British psychologist Catriona Morrison is quoted briefly, and specifically it mentions her exploration into how music affects memory.

Which of course got me thinking about how music affects my own brain, and not just in terms of memory. I’m a writer  and I’ve found that when I’m working, if I play music from exactly the time and place in the piece, one thing happens.  A kind of calming.  A yes, that’s right.  Uh huh.  It’s a feeling that tends to increase my recall of details needed for the piece.

But if I switch to something completely different from the story I’m working on – another whole set of mental triggers kick off – and sometimes they lead to something better than what I started with. Often the new thoughts aren’t memories, but rather completely new avenues.  Of course this often takes me to an entirely different route, far away from where I began – which could be considered procrastination, but I’m not apologizing for that.

Here’s an  important finding from my own personal research: Playing music while I work always leads to something good emotionally, which eventually leads to an enhanced version of whatever I’m doing.

I’m now testing this theory away from the computer, changing music during chores to see if I let my mind follow the music, will I be more or less productive or relaxed or in what ways, exactly, will things change?

I can see why therapists consider music a crucial tool.  It’s an absorbing topic.  And now I’ve wandered away from the original article I want to recommend, which must be due to the music I’m playing.


Ó Anita Garner 2009