Playing a musical instrument makes you brainier
New research suggests that regularly playing an instrument changes the shape and power of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills.
It can even increase IQ by seven points in both children and adults, according to researchers.
Experts said there is growing evidence that musicians have structurally and functionally different brains compared with non-musicians – in particular, the areas of the brain used in processing and playing music.
These parts of the brain that control motor skills, hearing, storing audio information and memory become larger and more active when a person learns how to play an instrument and can apparently improve day to day actions such as being alert, planning and emotional perception.
Lutz Jäncke, a psychologist at the University of Zurich, said: “Learning to play a musical instrument has definite benefits and can increase IQ by seven points, in both children and adults.
- “We found that even in people over the age of 65 after four or five months of playing a instrument for an hour a week there were strong changes in the brain.
- “The parts of the brain that control hearing, memory, and the part that controls the hands among others, all become more active. Essentially the architecture of the brain changes.
- “For children especially we found that learning to play the piano for instance teaches them to be more self-disciplined, more attentive and better at planning. All of these things are very important for academic performance, so can therefore make a child brighter.
- “Of course music isn’t the only answer, but I do believe that it should be used in addition to other things.”
Mr Jäncke also said that music can also make it easier to learn foreign languages and become more perceptive in interpreting the emotions of others.
- “When you play a musical instrument you have to learn about tone and about scores and your ability to store audio information becomes better.
- “So not only does this make it easier to pick up other languages and have a better verbal memory in your own language, we have also seen that musicians are able to pick out exactly what others are feeling just on the tone of their voices. Empathy, disappointment, that kind of thing.
- “If music has such a strong influence on brain plasticity this raises the question of whether this effect can be used to enhance cognitive performance.
- “Several studies indeed show that musical practice increases memory and language skills, and I suggest expanding this field.
- “Hopefully, the current trend in the use of musicians as a model for brain plasticity will continue … and extend to the field of neuropsychological rehabilitation.”
The research is published in the online publication Faculty of 1000 Biology Reports