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Playing An Instrument Is Like Training Your Brain Tremendously, Science Says

Playing An Instrument Is Like Training Your Brain Tremendously, Science Says

“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.

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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.

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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).

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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).

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“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.”

Summation

Playing a musical instrument can do wonders for your brain. As John A. Logan said, “Music’s the medicine of the mind.”

More by this author

Rebecca Beris

Rebecca is a wellness and lifestyle writer at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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