Brain Scans Show How Learning a Musical Instrument Enhances Our Brains

learning a musical instrument enhances the brain
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We know that learning music is good for the brain. Learning a musical instrument is even better. We’ve covered these points many times in previous articles:

Learning a Musical Instrument Enhances Our Brains

Now scientists are using brain scans to help us to understand the ways that learning a musical instrument benefits our brains:

Key points from the video:

  • Listening to music is good, but playing an instrument is better. When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. When you play an instrument, it is like a full-body brain workout.
  • Playing a musical instrument, it engages almost every area of the brain simultaneously, especially visual, auditory and motor areas.
  • When we play music, it combines linguistic and mathematical precision (left brain) with novel and creative content (right brain).
  • Playing a musical instrument increases the volume and activity in the corpus callosum (the bridge between the two halves of the brain) allowing for more rapid communication between the two hemispheres.
  • This training of the brain may allow musicians to be more effective and creative in solving problems academically and socially.
  • Musicians have higher levels of executive function (important for planning, strategising, and providing attention to detail)
  • Playing music enhances memory functions – making them more rapid and efficient.

Different Musical Instruments Offer Unique Brain Benefits

“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” – Leopold Stokowski.

According to Mic Com, study an instrument for long enough and it changes your brain in ways that make it unique from everyone elses’. Here it is in a nutshell, but I recommend clicking the links and reading the articles in their entirety…

What Playing the Piano Does to Your Brain

  • Playing the piano overcomes “handedness”. Most people are either right-handed or left-handed and it shows up on your brain. The brains of Piano players show a more symmetrical brain anatomy because piano playing strengthens the weaker hand. – Journal of Anatomy, 2006
  • Pianists that improvise a lot – like Jazz pianists – have better connections in their brains making them more efficient decision makers and also more capable of spontaneous creativity – The Guardian
  • Pianists brains require less energy to concentrate so they can focus on other aspects of their music playing – Neuroscience Letter, 1999

Watch Henri Herbert and get blown away…

What Playing the Guitar Does to Your Brain

  • Like pianists, guitarists are able to shift their unconscious creative thinking mode more easily. This reconfirms that creativity can be trained and that it takes a lot of effort and hard work before it can appear effortless. – The Neuroscience of Improvisation
  • Guitarists brains are more in synch with each other, especially when they play together (Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2012) – I wonder if this can be translated to show that guitarists are also more intuitive in general?
  • Guitarists learn better by watching others play rather than from sheet music (Vanderbilt University) – I wonder how this affects their observation skills?

Check out this awesome guitar duet.

What Playing the Drums Does to Your Brain

Getting Started

If you’re feeling inspired, here are some easy ways to introduce your child to music:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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