“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.”
— Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven intuitively knew what recent research has discovered; that music benefits the brain. Moreover, music is thought to promote positive brain activity more than any other pursuit. “Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.” writes Maria Popova, blogger and critic.
Playing a musical instrument engages many areas of the brain
Playing a musical instrument requires the use of almost every area of the brain at the same time. It engages the visual, auditory and motor cortices. Playing music has also been found to increase the size and activity in the corpus callosum; the bridge that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. When this area is large messages can be transferred across the brain at a faster rate and through a variety of routes. This can result in an increased ability to resolve problems in creative and efficient ways.
Musicians have enhanced memory functions
Musicians have enhanced memory functions. They can create, store and retrieve memories at a greater speed and more proficiently then most people. Musicians seem to use their highly connected brains to label specific memories with “tags”; studies have shown. These may take the form of emotional tags, conceptual tags, audio tags and contextual tags. The process seems to work somewhat like an internet search engine. The musician can quickly find what he or she is looking for as everything is clearly labeled and put into categories.
Children who received music tuition display superior reading skills
In a study published in the Journal of Psychology of Music, it was shown that children who were exposed to a multi-year program of music tuition performed better when they were asked to preform cognitive reading tasks than their non-musically trained peers.
The authors of the study, Joseph M Piro and Camilo Ortiz from Long Island University, USA, studied children in two US elementary schools. One school trained children in music and one did not. Piro and Ortiz set out to test their hypothesis that children who received keyboard instruction would perform better on measures of vocabulary and verbal sequencing then students who did not receive any musical instruction.
The authors state that there are likenesses between the way people interpret music and language. They note that “because neural response to music is a widely distributed system within the brain…. it would not be unreasonable to expect that some processing networks for music and language behaviors, namely reading, located in both hemispheres of the brain would overlap.”
The results of the study showed that the music-learning group had significantly better vocabulary and verbal sequencing scores than did the control group (the non-music-learning students).
Music training boosts math scores
In a study conducted by Martin F. Gardiner and his colleagues at the Center for the Study of Human Development at Brown University it was discovered that the Kodaly method of music training had a positive influence on the math skills of first and second graders. The Kodaly method involves rhythm games and learning to sing songs.
Debra Viadero states in her article, “Music on the Mind,” that “At the end of seven months, the students getting the specialized musical training were doing the same or slightly better in reading than their counterparts in the control group. But in math they zoomed ahead of their peers — even though they had started out slightly behind.” She added that, “Mr. Gardiner believes the boost comes in part because music aids children’s understanding of such concepts as number lines. …’Do is less than re, and re is less than mi.’ On a keyboard, the progression may be even easier to grasp.”
Early music training can promote growth in certain areas of the brain
Studies suggest that if a child begins music training early (before age seven) they can promote greater growth in certain areas of their brain. Reserachers in Germany found the region of the brain responsible for perfect pitch; the planum temporale (this is an area in the left hemisphere which is associated with speech).
“Using MRI, the German team looked at the planum temporale in thirty nonmusicians and in thirty professional musicians, eleven with perfect pitch and nineteen without. In the musicians with perfect pitch, the planum temporale was twice as big as in either the nonmusicians or the musicians lacking perfect pitch.” Diamond, M. and Hopson, J. wrote in their article entitled, “Magic trees of the mind: How to nurture your child’s intelligence, creativity, and healthy emotions from birth to adolescence.”
Playing a musical instrument can do wonders for your brain. As John A. Logan said, “Music’s the medicine of the mind.”