Research has determined what happens to the brain during silence. Neuroscience reveals the benefits of listening to nothing. If you knew that some silence could benefit you and your health, would you make it a priority in your life?
As you may already know, too much noise is unhealthy. It is linked to sleep deprivation, increased blood pressure, and heart disease. During research, some benefits of silence were made apparent.
Several studies have been conducted to test the effects of noise. The most interesting part of the studies was what had been revealed during moments of silence in between each sound.
A recent piece in Nautilus explores in detail the positive effects that silence can have on our brains. Journalist Daniel A. Gross elaborates on several studies in which researchers set out to study the effects of various types of noise–such as music, short bursts of sound, and white noise–only to discover the silence in between the sounds they were studying produced interesting results. Here are a few gems this body of research has revealed.
Growth of new brain cells
Did you know that silence regenerates brain cells? A study conducted on mice in 2013 showed that during two hours of complete silence, the part of the brain that is associated with memory, emotion, and learning called the hippocampus, developed new cells. Used as a preliminary study, it is possible that silence could someday be used as a therapy for Alzheimer’s, depression, and other neurological medical conditions.
Imke Kirste, a researcher, says that the new cells developed became functioning neurons.
“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons and integrate into the system.”
Activation of your brain’s memory
Even when the world around us is completely quiet, our brains are extremely adequate at filling in the silence. Take the example of listening to your favorite song, when it suddenly cuts out halfway through. If you know the song well, you’ll continue to hear it play in your head.
By retrieving the memory of the song’s music and lyrics, your brain is creating an illusion of sound. The Nautilus piece explains that this is because your brain’s auditory cortex remains hard at work. Even if your ears are not being stimulated by external sounds, your brain always finds a way to muscle its way into staying active.
Encouragement of self-reflection
Without stimulation and distraction, your brain need not focus and goes into a default mode of sorts. That doesn’t mean it completely turns off. Quite the opposite. Your brain at rest will sort and gather information. This is where the self-reflection comes in.
Auditory stimulation forces your brain to process sound and listen to what’s going on around you. Without that external noise, your brain is forced to listen to what’s going on inside of it.