Music Nostalgia and the Adolescent Brain

The article “Why Are We So Nostalgic for Music We Loved as Teenagers? ” by Mark Joseph Stern further emphasizes the point that the music we listen to as adolescents shapes our neural pathways and influences our preferences in the future. It elaborates on how music not only stimulates the prefrontal cortex of our brains, therefore creating memories but also triggers the frontostriatal cortex which releases dopamine and other pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters.

During adolescent development, our brains are changing and the songs we enjoy the most are encoded in our memories due to the strong emotional connections our brain makes with them. The surplus of pubertal hormones adolescents experience heighten their emotions and encode strong emotional memory linked to music.

However, the article also addresses another psychological aspect of why our musical taste is so shaped by our adolescent years. It touches on how as people discover their identity throughout their adolescent years, music becomes a part of their self-image. Listening to music one loved during one’s teens and young adult years can allow one to go back in time and once again feel the joy and experience the memories connected to certain songs.

Overall, this article is a useful complement to the original article because it goes into further detail about how the songs listened to during one’s adolescent years influences their taste in music many years later.

Work Cited

Stern, Mark Joseph. “Why Are We So Nostalgic for Music We Loved as                   Teenagers?” Slate Magazine, Slate, 12 Aug. 2014.



Our Music Taste

As I am not an adult yet, it is a little difficult for me to be able to completely relate with the claim that “the songs we listened to during our teen years set [my] musical taste as an adult”. According to the article, the age where this begins to play a role in your musical taste is between 11 and 14 years old. When I was 11 years old, I absolutely adored Lady Gaga. Although I love her music, my music taste has shifted from the genre she tends to stick to versus to what I listen to now. While her music is more of a pop genre, I now tend to listen more to rap music and reggaeton/salsa – genres that are completely different to what Lady Gaga does. Due to my personal experience with this concept, I personally don’t fully agree with the claim that the author of the article is making – but I can see how it can relate to some people. As a kid, especially during my pre-teen years, I moved around a lot – which exposed me to various cultures. An article by CNN considers the claim that being that your culture has an impact on the type of music you prefer. Having been exposed to so many distinct cultures in my pre-teen years most likely shaped the judgements that I now have on my current musical taste. According a study in 2018 from the University of Rochester Medical Center by two medical reviewers, the frontal lobes (or rational parts of our brains) aren’t fully developed until someone is around age 25, therefore teenagers still have the ability to alter their reasoning and judgements. The evidence provided by the medical center makes me believe that the claim made in the original article on our adult music taste may be slightly faulty due to the fact that teenagers tend to go through a lot of experiences, such as moving in my case, that may have the capacity of altering decision making (ex. choosing music). To summarize, I believe that if you are exposed to a single culture or social environment during your pre-teen years, you are most likely to have the same music taste as an adult than as you did as a child, but being in distinct social contexts, as was I as a pre-teen, resulted in my frontal lobes developing differently than if I were to have grown up in one country my whole life since I needed to adapt to change.

Howard, Jacqueline. “Where Your Taste in Music Comes From.” CNN, Cable News Network, 12 Apr. 2017, Citation

Sather, Rita, and Amit Shelat. “Understanding the Teen Brain .” Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses For Pain – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center, 2018, Citation

Ong, Thuy. “Our Musical Tastes Peak as Teens, Says Study.” The Verge, The Verge, 12 Feb. 2018, Citation

Music- Searching for Something Deeper

As I walk around campus or around the city during the day, chances are that I have earphones in to listen to music. Going through a day without the presence of music is becoming increasingly rare for me. Despite today’s hits, the music that always manages to bring me excitement are those with nostalgic vibes from my childhood.

In the small range of years that you and I listen to music as adolescents, the music gradually works to mold and shape who we are,defining not only identities but even personalities and habits. During such an important period, extra caution should be extended to those experiencing first hand the effects of music.

The study done by New York Times analysis exemplifies that  according to the Spotify data analysis, men’s “most important period for forming musical taste is between the ages of 13 to 16” meanwhile “for women, the most important period is between 11 and 14” (The Verge). The plain fact that these adult women continue to adore songs from several decades ago shows the strong influential each song had in a childhood. The conclusion and results from the study did not really surprise me.

The years leading up to and during adolescence are the most influential to an individual. I know for a fact that my time during the latter part of middle school was when I found new interests. Kids my age were always trying to find their “thing.” A study in the U.S. and U.K. illustrates that the brain undergoes massive changes during adolescence, especially in social interaction. Nearly 300 people were continuously scanned from the age of seven, which revealed “dramatic structural changes during adolescence in four regions that help us understand the intentions, beliefs and desires of others, says Kathryn Mills of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in London” (National Public Radio). She has led many research projects that focus on how the extent of a child’s social environment changes the cognitive and behavioral strategies well past adolescence.

The maturity of the gray matter through the years

So why does the music continue through adulthood? My take on it is that because the brain is still maturing and developing during these years, it is also the time when adolescents are the most impressionable and receptive to new ideas. If you look on the picture, the adolescent brain is still not fully capable of cognitive thinking, so obviously they would be so impressionable at this age. Once they identify with an object, or even song, they would feel a sense of relatability to it. Therefore, hearing the songs even years later will probably induce a sense of familiarity and happiness. I believe these early years should be spent towards curating a healthier outlook. The music that kids choose at this age will probably stick with them to adulthood, where mental support and psychological perceptions of a developing child can take place.