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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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