Most experts agree that playing an instrument is quite a unique experience and an incredibly beneficial activity for your brain. As neuroscientists have developed more of an understanding of our brains using FMRI and PET scanners, this TED education video, based on a landmark study by Dr. Anita Collins, has described playing an instrument as a “full brain workout”.
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By utilising the different cortexes of the brain, you become better at using them for different functions, and studies have linked piano classes and other forms of music learning to better planning skills, better mathematical skills and a variety of other brain benefits. This is further explored in this article about the 10 benefits of learning the piano.
How Music Helps the Brain and Improves Brain Function
Playing an instrument helps the brain because music engages pretty much every part of the brain at the same time. This is true, to an extent, when listening to music, but when having to use your motor skills, planning ahead, reading music and multitasking, it is clear that functions get strengthened. The brain scanners show significant activity that seems pretty unique to music.
As well as improving your motor skills, the uniqueness of music, being both a creative pursuit and a very scientific and precise action, means that you are using both hemispheres of the brain. Simultaneously, musicians are having to analyse what others are doing, keep rhythm, read and analyse music and in some cases even compose and improvise on the spot. At LVL Music Academy you can learn to do all of this, and your brain may reap the benefits.
It has been shown in these studies that playing music increases volume in the Corpus Callosum, allowing messages to travel through the brain quicker, and in theory, making people smarter, with faster reactions You could describe this as making the brain “sharper”. Some studies have also linked music with being useful for those with dementia as a way to stop the degradation of brain functions over time.
Cognitive and emotional functions and your memory systems also benefit. Studies find musicians’ brains are more likely to give memories multiple “tags” a bit like a search engine. Information and memories can be recalled with more ease.
You might think that a lot of other hobbies will do a similar job. Interestingly, things like traditional art and sports have not shown to be the same in studies. Of course, these things are good for the brain, but they don’t have the unique multitasking and brain strengthening of music.