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How the arts transport us to different worlds and alter our brains

Music, art, and philosophy all evoke powerful emotions, shape our perspectives, and transport us to other worlds. Music can even change our brain chemistry, which may just change how we look at patient care. Speaking of transport, take a visit down memory lane with this article on Nostalgia.

Welcome to the May 21 edition of The Digest.

Sometimes, surprising things work.

For patients undergoing chemotherapy, that surprising solution to chemo-related nausea is music therapy. Essentially, by listening to their favorite tunes, Jason Kiernan - author of the study - realized that patients were overwriting the brain’s nausea response and blocking the release of serotonin, otherwise known as the prime neurotransmitter behind chemo-induced nausea. It’s a pretty incredible observation that could lead to inexpensive yet dramatic changes in patient care and we’re here for that. Link.

Because music transport us, it got me thinking about nostalgia.

Nostalgia can be powerful. It an important part of our memories but often is a sign of unhappiness. I went down the internet-rabbit-hole and found this older HBR article about nostalgia in the workplace and how it can build more meaningful connections among teams. A preview: When people engage in nostalgia, they’re accessing personally meaningful autobiographical events typically shared with family, friends, and other close connections. It isn’t just a happy trip down memory lane — in fact, nostalgic reflection often involves both negative and positive emotional states. Critically, it tends to follow a redemptive sequence in which negative feelings such as longing and loss give way to positive feelings such as happiness, social connectedness, gratitude, and hope. In other words, nostalgia is bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter. Link.

Is philosophy inherent to art and what we can learn from songs?

The article sings for itself: "Music itself provides its own justification—more powerful than any text—and each one of us has felt its power. Yet people are skeptical when I say that songs offer a pathway to a higher level of existence—or what we call the good life….But the gap between philosophy and music, on close examination, starts to disappear. And even more surprising: music holds the upper hand here. Songs, as we shall see, served as the original source of philosophy’s authority, and despite centuries of veneration of the written text, still hold a position of primacy—which the philosophers themselves acknowledge." Link.