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World-first immersive music experience stars Brunel research


The mysterious powers of music spring to life in an immersive interactive exhibition showcasing some stunning discoveries by Brunel’s Prof Costas Karageorghis.

Turn It Up: The power of music at the Science and Industry Museum lets people play with research into the effects of music, done in universities around the world.

“On the one hand, I am absolutely delighted that the Science and Industry Museum has wanted to feature my body of work in this new exhibition,” said Costas, Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology. “On the other, I feel far too young to have anything to do with a museum exhibit!”

The show is dotted with interactive installations that let visitors explore the science behind music and the unexpected ways it can influence behaviour, emotion and thought processes. It shows how music can influence what we buy, what we taste and, drawing on Prof Karageorghis’ studies, how music can help performance in sport, safety in driving and more.

A highlight is changing-room lockers that open to reveal which tracks England football captain Harry Kane, Paralympic champion wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft and Wimbledon champion Sir Andy Murray listen to before they compete. Research by Prof Karageorghis finds music changes how our muscles perform by priming the nervous system.


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Music is widely used in exercise and, in technical terms, Brunel research has shown how music blocks messages travelling through our afferent nervous system to the brain. In non-technical terms, music tricks us into having greater staying power. While randomly-chosen music reduces our perceived exertion by 8 per cent, music that we really love and is at the right tempo cuts it by as much as 12 per cent.

In another installation, visitors can sit in a driving simulator that offers two different tunes. They are asked which would be best for safe city driving and can open the glove compartment to find out, plus facts about the tracks and how they influence driver psychology.

That installation is based on findings from an ESRC-funded project by Brunel and Coventry University that Prof Karageorghis led . UK national accident statistics are dominated by young male drivers. So the team tested all manner of music – fast, slow, lyrical, instrumental, loud and quiet – on urban and motorway driving simulations. They found that low-intensity, vocal-free music created the best emotional state for safe urban driving. The message is clear: choose moderately calming music over heavy metal or banging techno. “You won’t look as cool, but you’ll definitely be safer,” said Prof Karageorghis. 

Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester mayor, opened the show last week as Manchester Science Festival’s headline exhibition, before it sets off on a national and international tour.

Turn It Up: The Power of Music is at the Science and Industry Museum, Manchester, until 21 May 2023.