Neuroscientists have discovered a wonderful new correlation between playing music and activities in the brain. Turns out that when you play music, multiple areas of the brain light up simultaneously processing different areas of the brain in intricate, interrelated, astonishingly fast sequences.
“While listening to music engages the brain in some pretty interesting activities, playing music is the equivalent to a full body workout.”
The theory is that playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once. Especially the visual, auditory and motor cortices. When you combine that with disciplined, structured practice, the idea is that this strengthens brain functions, allowing us to apply that strength to other activities.
So unlike the action of simply listening to music, playing music allows us to use fine motor skills which which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision in which the left hemisphere is more involved with the novel and creative content that the right hemisphere excels in.
For this reasons playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum, the bridge between the two hemispheres, allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. This may allow musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively, in both academic and social settings.
Musicians often have higher levels of executive functions
Because music also involves crafting and understanding its emotional content and message, musicians often have higher levels of executive functions, a category of interlinked tasks that includes planning, strategizing and attention to detail, and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects. This ability also has an impact on how our memory systems work.
Musicians exhibit enhanced memory functions: creating, storing and retrieving memory more quickly and efficiently.
Studies have found that musicians appear to use their highly connective brains to give each memory multiple tags, such as a conceptual tag, an emotional tag, an audio tag, and a contextual tag….like a good internet search engine.
So how do we know that all these benefits are unique to music?
Neuroscientists have found that the artistic and aesthetic aspects of learning to play a musical instrument are different from any other activities, including other arts.
Insights from this blog were gleaned from Anita Collins.
How playing an instrument benefits your brain – Anita Collins