Music & You

Right now we are looking for 60-85 year old and 18-30 year old music listeners to volunteer for our research study on the effects of music.

Volunteers will complete a questionnaire (45 minutes) measuring their music listening habits, personality and wellbeing. The questionnaire can be found here: or if you are in Ireland you can request a paper version (with FreePost envelope) from

Volunteers over 60 years, or 18-30 years living in Galway, Ireland (or within travelling distance – expenses covered) can also participate in our Music & The Brain study

This will involve one 2-3 hour lab session in the School of Psychology, NUI, Galway.

You can find more information about our Experimental Study – Music & The Brain below!

You can book one of these experimental sessions online here:

Music & The Brain

You are being invited to take part in a research study. Before you decide it is important for you to understand why the research is being done and what it will involve. Please take time to read the following information carefully.

What is the purpose of the study?

We are interested in age differences in responses to music. We also want to know if music has any effect on task performance. You will be asked to fill out questionnaires focusing on how you listen to music in everyday life and your personality. You will be asked to visit the laboratory in the School of Psychology for one 2-hour session. You will also be asked to complete some computerised and oral tasks.

Who are the researchers and who is funding the research?

This research is being carried out by Jenny Groarke, supervised by Dr. Michael Hogan in the School of Psychology, NUI, Galway. This research has been approved by the NUI, Galway Research Ethics Committee, and is funded by the Irish Research Council.

Who can take part?

We are recruiting adults aged between 60 and 85 years, and 18-30 years who are living independently in the community, and have English as a first language or university level English (i.e. equivalent to 80 on TOEFL or 6.5 on IELTS).

Due to the nature of the study the following people are not eligible to participate:

  • those currently taking any type of sedating medication
  • those who do not possess normal or corrected-to-normal vision and hearing
  • those who are drug/alcohol dependent
  • those who are not right handed
  • those with a medical condition associated with head injury, spinal injury, epilepsy, stroke or heart attack
  • those diagnosed with an affective disorder (i.e. depression, PTSD, generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety)

What would be involved?

Before visiting the lab you will be asked to fill out questionnaires measuring your personality, well-being, demographics and music listening habits. These questionnaires take up to 45 minutes to complete. Next you will make an appointment to visit our lab. In this session you will complete a number of verbal and numerical tasks while cardiovascular and brain activity is recorded, some participants may find these tasks mildly to moderately stressful. The experiment will take 2 hours, factoring in time for breaks and refreshments you will spend up to 3 hours in the lab with us.

While you are performing these tasks we will measure electrical changes in your brain using Electroencephalography (EEG). The recording of EEG involves a special cap (see below).


This experimental procedure will take about 2 hours to complete. First we will apply the EEG cap and the finger cuff and arm cuff for cardiovascular measurement. Then you will complete the computerised verbal and numerical tasks. Next you will complete some more verbal and numerical tasks orally. Then you will complete the tasks again. Following this, the EEG cap will be removed and you will be directed to hair washing facilities.

What will I do with the information?

All data are, in accordance with the Data Protection Act, strictly confidential. Your data will be given a unique participant number and this number will be stored without your name or other personal information attached. The personal and experimental data is therefore stored anonymously. It is anticipated that the findings of this study will be written up for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals and presented at international conferences. All results will be anonymous. Your information will never be given to third parties.

Are there any risks involved in taking part?

We foresee no risks to participants as a result of taking part. EEG is a very safe, non-invasive procedure. We realize it is inconvenient to have to wash one’s hair, but we provide everything needed to leave the lab as you entered. You may get tired – in which case we will give you a break and refreshments. Listening to music may bring up difficult emotions or memories, in which case you will be welcome to remain in the lab as long as you need for your mood to return to normal. You might find you would like to talk to someone about some of the issues raised. We will be happy to recommend someone to you.

Are there any benefits in taking part?

Benefits include the opportunity to contribute to the understanding of the role of music in task performance. Participants will receive a readable report of the study results when it is concluded.

What if I wish to withdraw?

Your participation is entirely voluntary and you can withdraw at any time you wish, without giving a reason and without penalty.

What it I have more questions?

If you have any further questions about the study, please contact me at:

085-2722222 or by email at

If you have any concerns about this study and wish to contact someone in confidence, you may contact:

The Chairperson of the NUI Galway Research Ethics Committee, C/o Office of the Vice President for Research, NUI Galway

Tel: 091 524411 (extension 5312) 091 495312 (direct)


Making the Most of Music at any Age

The healing properties of music have been celebrated since the 6th century when the philosopher Pythagoras began prescribing music as a medicine to restore harmony to the human mind, body, and soul. You might have a hard time convincing your doctor to write you a prescription for a Led Zeppelin record these days, but we bet you can easily think of music that helped you through difficult times in your life, or was there with you during the happier moments.

What are the Adaptive Functions of Music Listening?

We generally consider mood regulation to be the most important function of music listening (FML), but humans also listen to music for its cognitive benefits, such as increased focus and attention, and to ease social interactions. More recently, research has started to focus on how music promotes wellbeing, which we can think of as simply emotional balance, or more broadly in terms of our relationships, purpose, and life engagement. It seems that these broader, so-called “eudaimonic” qualities become more important as we age1,2, but we know very little about how music interacts with these aspects of wellbeing. We have seen, however, that music brings about not only pleasure but also absorption and transcendence in listeners2-4, so it is worth considering how music enhances these aspects of our lives.

Over 60? Tell us why YOU listen to music! Take the AFML survey here.

In our research, we are interested in finding out why older and younger adults listen to music, and how these functions of music listening interact to enhance their wellbeing. We used a collective intelligence method called Interactive Management (IM) to ask 25 young adults (18-30 years old) and 19 older adults (60 – 75 years old) about why they listen to music, and to model how these functions of music listening interact.

Music and Wellbeing across the Lifespan

Our IM sessions generated 138 functions of music listening, which we organized into 9 broad themes. You can see these FML These addressed mood, social, cognitive, and eudaimonic aspects of music listening, and also functions such as helping us to achieve goals, analyzing the music, aiding sleep, and creating personal space. Younger adults spoke mainly about how listening to music helps them to regulate their moods, achieve goals, and reminisce, whilst older adults focused more on how music fosters positive moods, social connections, and transcendence.

Whilst both older and younger adults emphasized the importance of music bringing about strong emotions, these emotional hits had a more positive, spiritual quality for older adults, who consistently spoke about music taking them to “another world“, “a different dimension“, and “transcending the mundane“. Transcendent experiences have been related to benefits such as increased happiness and meaning in life5, more life satisfaction6, and reduced loneliness in older adults7. Indeed, for the older adults in our study it seems that listening to music plays an important role in easing feelings of loneliness. However, whilst the older adults spoke about using music to reduce these feelings of isolation, the younger adults in our study spoke about how music allowed them to carve out a personal space in which they could limit social connection. As one young woman described it, “When I’m listening to music, I can escape sort of, even though there’s people around… I can escape that stress,” (Female, 24). It seems that whilst younger adults may be using music to ease the stresses of their more active social lives, older adults may listen to music to compensate for their feelings of social isolation.

Schematic Representation of FML

Both age groups discussed using music to aid reminiscence, and indeed this emerged as the most influential function of music listening for younger adults. This reminiscence may be more about personal growth and empathy for older adults but more self-regulatory in younger people. Whilst older adults spoke about listening to music to bring back fond memories such as “lovely memories of a particular person that may have passed on” (Female, 65), younger adults also described using music to consciously remember significant others, for example when feeling homesick, and even for less adaptive reasons such as “break-up songs, just to torture yourself” (Female, 22)! This also played into the personal growth aspect of music listening for older adults, who described music as enhancing reflection which, in turn, helped them to foster feelings of compassion for themselves and others.

Our study was the first to use Interactive Management to explore the connections between music listening and wellbeing, and consider how these may differ between different age groups. It appears that both older and younger adults believe that music has an effect on their wellbeing, and our findings highlight the importance of intense emotional experiences, reminiscence, and eudaimonic experiences such as meaning and transcendence. These aspects of music listening function adaptively to enhance feelings of wellbeing across the lifespan, in old and young alike.

We are seeking a large number of volunteers aged over 60 years to complete this questionnaire for the next phase of our study.

You can take our survey of adaptive music listening here:

For more information visit our site here:

You can read the full version of this paper here:

or request a copy from the author at

References:  Continue reading