Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Playing a musical instrument is brain training

Do you play a musical instrument? Do you love it, does it make you happy and does it help you when times are difficult? That’s great. Recent research from neuroscience suggests that you might benefit from your hobby even more than you think: playing music is a “full body workout for the brain”!

When study participants listen to music, their brains are extremely active and many neurons are firing. However, playing music oneself is the equivalent to a full body workout of the brain. In a TED Ed Video, Anita Collins explains what happens in the brain when we play a musical instrument and why this activity is so beneficial for our brain.

Playing an instrument activates almost all areas of the brain simultaneously. Disciplined and structured practice strengthens these brain functions and allows applying these strengths to other activities. What is so special about playing an instrument is that it requires fine motor skills, which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. Thus it strengthens the connections between the two brain hemispheres. Moreover, it combines the linguistic and mathematical precision that is located in the left hemisphere with the novel and creative processes located in the right hemisphere. This enhances problem solving skills, executive functions such as planning, and memory. These effects are unique to playing an instrument (as opposed to e.g. sports or other arts).

So this is one more way of keeping your brain in shape. We reported on many other ways before: learning a second language, physical exercise, socialising, learning a new skill, brain training, or even playing videogames. So there is some method for keeping your brain in shape for different preferences, just pick whatever you like!

By the way, the TED Ed video format (“Lessons worth sharing”) is a new format we recently found on the TED website. We will certainly post more of these short and very instructive videos here!

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