Listening to classical music kicks your genes into action, spurring the onset of several physiological processes in the body that can boost your mood and enhance your memory, according to Finnish researchers.
Genes that secrete and transport the feel-good hormone dopamine are called into action as well as those involved in a process called synaptic neurotransmission which sharpens your memory and ability to learn.
These genes that get enhanced after listening to classical music, or "up-regulated" in scientific terms, are known to be responsible for songbirds' musicality, according to the researchers, indicating that we share an evolutionary platform with them.
What's more, classical music hinders the activity of genes that facilitate neurodegeneration, so turning up the tunes could also preserve the cells in your nervous system.
In the study, which was published in the journal PeerJ, the research team aimed to better understand what happens on a molecular level when we listen to music, and they worked with both musicians and non-musicians to find out.
Participants listened to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's violin concerto Nr 3, G-major, K.216, which is approximately 20 minutes long.
Indeed, listening to the work of the venerable Mozart activated the genes involved in the aforementioned processes, and most notably synuclein-alpha (SNCA) that is known to help songbirds learn their music.
While the music down-regulated the genes associated with neurodegeneration, indicating it could have a neuroprotective role, this effect was only observed among the musicians.
According to study author Dr Irma Järvelä, familiarity and experience in mediating music-induced effects could be important in preserving neurons.
While a recent study at Canada's Rotman Research Institute (RRI) has suggested that learning to play music during one's youth can ward off dementia in old age, Dr. Järvelä's study could be one of the first to explain how it works on a molecular level.
Music is being increasingly studied in science and the Boston-based Sync Project aims to use the scientific research to create new ways to cure illness.
Many studies have indicated that music could play an important role in mental health, and understanding the physiological processes that it controls could be the pathway towards applying it as a non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive cure for disease.