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If You Play Any Musical Instruments, Your Brain Is Very Different From Others’

If You Play Any Musical Instruments, Your Brain Is Very Different From Others’

For many people, it’s something that’s been endlessly on the to-do list. I’ll take up the guitar. I’ll join a jazz band. If you can play a musical instrument, well done, you are doing something because you’re passionate about it. It takes dedication and willpower to become a good musician. For those who are undecided, on the verge of taking one up —as if you really need anymore reasons— here is proof of the benefits of playing a musical instrument.

Learning An Instrument Accelerates Brain Development

Neuroscientists at USC recently carried out a study[1] examining the impact of music instruction on children’s social, emotional and cognitive development.

The study results show that music-learning speeds up the development of the auditory pathway in the brain and increases its efficiency.

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The study’s lead author, Assal Habibi, talked about his team’s findings:

“These results reflect that children with music training, compared with the two other comparison groups, were more accurate in processing sound.”[2]

Music learning very much trains the brain like a muscle. This has also been shown by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. They discovered that male musicians have larger brains than men who have not had extensive musical training.[3]

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The Special Connection In Their Brains

We won’t go as far as saying that people who play music can read each other’s minds but there is a real alignment in the parts of the brain that deal with music production and social cognition. A 2012 study[4] undertaken in Berlin shows that guitarists that are playing together undergo a pretty incredible synchronization of their brains during, and even just before, playing.[5]

Another study[6] looked at “the neural basis of creativity” by scanning guitarists while they played improv. The researchers found that, whilst playing, these guitarists momentarily deactivate a region of the brain associated with conscious thought.

Seen any instrument player live go into a solo? A great player can make a complex musical passage seem easier than it is. The truth is that, in a way, it is. The practice it took to get there wasn’t easy, but playing often doesn’t entail a conscious strained effort.

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The More Symmetrical Brains

If that weren’t amazing enough, piano players come into a whole different league.[7]

Whilst guitar-playing favors left-handed dexterity (and vice versa for left-handed players), piano players learn to hit different notes with both hands while navigating between 88 keys.

Learning the piano from a young age has an impressive effect on the brain development; amazingly, it has the effect of making a person’s brain more symmetrical.

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According to a study[8], the reason for this is that piano players have to overcome a characteristic that is innate in the vast majority of people, the favoring of one hand over the other. The central sulcus is a region of the brain that determines which hand is dominant. For most people, this region goes deeper on one side than the other determining which hand is dominant.

For piano players, there is a clearly demonstrable difference to the majority of other people. The central sulcus is much more symmetrical.

It may sound like we’re saying piano playing is great because it makes your brain look aesthetically pleasing. Of course the effects is further reaching and not quite as absurd. Several studies point towards piano playing making the brain run much more efficiently overall.

That also leads us to think if all the percussion instruments that involve both hands actually have the same effect too, say for drums players.

There’s More To Musicians Than Just Being Good At Music

So if you want to enhance your brain power, there it is. It has been proven that musicians have different connections within their brain. This doesn’t only mean they’re good at music as well. Learning a musical instrument is a great passion project that can benefit your life in many different ways.

Reference

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Christopher Young

Freelance Blogger, Writer and Journalist

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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