Did you know that unlike math or reading that stimulates just a few areas of the brain, playing an instrument triggers activity in multiple areas? Decades of research reveal that learning a musical instrument provides so many benefits to the brain the sum total of which equates to a complete workout to this nervous system organ.
If you don’t already play a musical instrument, chances are you would start right after you finish reading this article. Eventually you might even join a band and play for weddings or events just as MsMusic does.
We all know that the left side of the brain is logical, rational, analytic quantitative and verbal whereas the right hemisphere is associated with creativity, conceptualism, holistics, imagination, intuition and non-verbalism. The conclusion from a 2014 Liverpool study was that brief musical training enhances blood flow to the brain’s left hemisphere. The indication is that musical training helps with tapping into more of the left hemisphere.
As per the findings of a 2014 USA study, musical training gives a boost to Executive Functions (EF) which is a marker of academic ability. The study revealed that musically trained children performed better in areas of processing speed and verbal fluency. What’s more, areas of their brain concerned with exercising control were activated more than in their musically untrained counterparts. Similarly, musicians showed improved EF performance.
Research from the Northwestern University Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, published in 2011, shows that musical training can strengthen reading skills. This stems from a connection between music and reading in terms of common cognitive and neural mechanisms. In other words, musical training holds a possible solution for enhancing literacy.
Learning a new musical instrument works both brain hemispheres which in turn can make your memory stronger. What’s more, studies show that it also increases grey matter size in different brain regions and fortifies the long-range connections between them. Musical training is also known to enhance spatial reasoning.
When you join a band or become part of a musical group, you get to develop relationships with more people. That’s just the beginning! According to research, when we synchronize or try to keep beat with others musically, we start to develop positive social vibes with them. Harmonizing movements with another person is associated with the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones. This could be why, making music together as a group causes warm and good social feelings to sprout.
Research from the Université de Montréal’s School of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology reveals that musicians react faster to sensory stimuli when compared to non-musicians. As we age, we react slower and slower. Possibly, playing a musical instrument can help reverse the process. The study also strongly indicates that musicians have the advantage of better integration of multisensory information.
A study of a music-supported training program for 20 stroke patients (10 afflicted in the right upper extremity and 10 in the left) showed great movement and motor control improvement in the patients. The music therapy was applied alongside conventional treatment for 3 weeks. Following the treatment, there was found to be progress in the precision, smoothness and speed of the patient's’ movements. In addition, their motor control for daily activities considerably improved.
The combined research from various studies shows that learning a musical instrument can profoundly benefit our mental and emotional health. It can reduce depression and anxiety, be a way to express
pent-up emotions and therefore soothe, and finally, enliven and energize those who do it.
To conclude, playing music is definitely a hobby worth engaging in. Your brain will thank you for it.