It's been said that listening to music is good for the soul, and now new research shows that it's good for the brain, too.

That's at least according to new findings published in the journal PeerJ, in which researchers say that listening to 20 minutes of classical music modulates genes responsible for brain functioning.

Scientists already know that listening to music results in various neuronal and physiological changes. However, how it affects us on a molecular level, leading to such observed changes, has largely remained a mystery - that is, until now.

During the study, researchers had volunteers listen to Mozart's violin concerto No. 3 G-Major, K.216, a piece that lasts 20 minutes. The participants were either musically experienced or inexperienced. They found that listening to music positively affected the activity of up-regulated genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic function, learning and memory.

This includes a gene called synuclein-alpha (SNCA), which is most often linked with Parkinson's disease, and is also responsible for how birds learn their songs.

"The up-regulation of several genes that are known to be responsible for song learning and singing in songbirds suggest a shared evolutionary background of sound perception between vocalizing birds and humans," Dr. Irma Järvelä, who led the study, said in a statement.

What's more, listening to music "down-regulated" genes that are associated with neurodegenerative diseases, suggesting that music helps keep the brain healthy.

"The effect was only detectable in musically experienced participants, suggesting the importance of familiarity and experience in mediating music-induced effects," the researchers noted.

By better understanding how listening to music affects the brain on a molecular level, it could potentially lead to improved music therapy used to treat those suffering from degenerative diseases.

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