Sound is converted to an electrical signal when it enters the ear. This signal travels up the auditory nerve to the part of the brain that processes sound, the auditory cortex. From there, the signals travel throughout the brain, creating a variety of responses. The effects of sound in the brain include evoking emotions, triggering the release of stress chemicals and impacting the development of new neural pathways in the brain.
Music impacts the part of the brain that controls the link between sound, memories and emotion, the medial prefrontal cortex, says the National Institutes of Health. Listening to music can soothe the emotions. A study published in the December 2009 journal Pediatrics found that premature babies demonstrated an increased rate of weight gain when they were exposed to music by Mozart. The music soothed the babies, reducing their resting energy expenditure. Researchers speculate that the weight gain seen in premature babies who are exposed to Mozart results from this lower energy expenditure.
In May 2006, the Journal of Advanced Nursing reported that people who listen to music experience less pain and lower levels of depression and disability related to pain than those who don't listen to music. This indicates that music can effect the brain by lifting the mood and alleviating the perception of pain.