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

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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.

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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

More by this author

Christopher Young

Freelance Blogger, Writer and Journalist

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