There’s a reason why y’all love bass music so much, and it has as much to do with the inner workings of your brain as it does with the thrill of writhing alongside thousands of other sweaty-ass people at a dubstep show.
Now for some actual science: A recent study by Canada’s McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind researched how the human brain reacts to low- and high-pitched tones. An effort to figure out how humans detect rhythm, the study had participants listen to a stream of tones and tap their fingers along to various beats, all while having their brains scanned. Off-rhythm mistakes were inserted in these beats, and brains were found to respond more strongly to the off-beat, lower tones.
This led researchers to determine that it’s easier for us humans to follow deeper bass sounds. Basically, your brain picks up on the rhythms of lower, bassier music faster than it does high-pitched noises.
Researchers theorize that this is why music from various ethnic origins around the world is largely designed with background rhythms made up of lower tones. “Music in diverse cultures is composed this way, from classical East Indian music to Gamelan music of Java and Bali, suggesting an innate origin,” said study co-author Laurel Trainor, a neuroscientist and director of the McMaster Institute, in an article on LiveScience.
“There is a physiological basis for why we create music the way we do,” Trainor continues. “Virtually all people will respond more to the beat when it is carried by lower-pitched instruments.”
This seems a reasonable theory as to why the bass and sub-bass music of artists including Skrillex, Pretty Lights and Bassnectar is so wildly, and internationally, popular.
Your brain is in fact naturally rhythmic, even when you’re not listening to music, and it fires at rhythms that vary depending on what you’re doing. For example, when you’re thinking with major focus, your brain fires quick, rhythmic electrical pulses called gamma waves. When you’re relaxed, it fires the slower alpha waves. It is these rhythms that allow you to function the way you do.
According to a recent story by NPR, “the internal cadences of the brain and nervous system appear to play an important role in everything from walking to thinking.” Abnormal rhythms have been associated with medical issues including schizophrenia, epilepsy, autism and Parkinson’s disease. So basically, a brain that is firing at a steady rhythm is more likely to be healthy.
Furthermore, you can train your brain using what are referred to as binaural beats, which are specially designed sounds designed to induce relaxation, meditation, creativity and other mental states. Such binaural beats are available for download all over the internet and can be streamed on services including Spotify.