How Playing an Instrument
Benefits our Brain
Thank you Anita Collins from TED-Ed.
The ideas found in this superb TED-Ed talk could make you want to practice more just because practice helps your brain to such a great degree.
Did you know that every time musicians pick up their instruments there are fireworks going off all over their brain? On the outside they may look calm and focused, reading the music and making the precise movements required, but inside their brains, there's a party going on. How do we know this? Well in the last few decades neuroscientists have made enormous breakthroughs in
understanding how our brains work by monitoring them in real time. With instruments like MRI and PET scanners people are monitored while doing various tasks. Tasks such as reading or doing math problems each have corresponding areas of the brain where activity can be observed. But
when researchers got the participants to listen to music, they saw fireworks in multiple areas of their brains. They took the sound apart to understand elements like
melody and rhythm, then put it all back together into a unified musical experience. Our brains do all this work in the split second between when we first hear the music and when our foot starts to tap along.
But when scientists turned from observing the brains of music listeners to those of musicians, the little backyard fireworks became a jubilee. It turns out that while listening to music engages the brain in some pretty interesting activities, playing music is the brain's equivalent of a full-body workout.
The neuroscientists saw multiple areas of the brain light up simultaneously processing different information in intricate interrelated and astonishingly fast sequences. But what is it about making music that sets the brain alight? The research is still fairly new, but neuroscientists have a pretty good idea playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices.
As with any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brain functions allowing us to apply that strength to other activities.
The most obvious difference between listening to music and playing it, is that the latter requires fine motor skills which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision inthe left hemisphere while the right is more involved with the novel and creative content. For these reasons playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain's corpus callosum,
the bridge between the two hemispheres, allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. This may allow musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively in both academic and social settings. Because making music also involves crafting and understanding its emotional content and message, musicians often have higher levels of executive function. This category of interlinked tasks includes planning, strategizing and attention to detail. It requires
simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects.
This ability also has an impact on how our memory systems work. Indeed, musicians exhibit enhanced memory functions creating, storing and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently. Studies have found that musicians appear to use their highly connected brains to give each memory multiple tags, such as a
conceptual tag, emotional tag, an audio tag, and a contextual tag -- like a good internet search engine.
How do we know that all these benefits are unique
to music as opposed to say sports or painting? Could it be that people who go into music were already smarter to begin with? Neuroscientists have explored these issues but so far they have found that the artistic and aesthetic aspects of learning to play a musical instrument are different from any other activity.
They studied other arts. Several randomized studies of participants who showed the same levels of cognitive function and neural processing at the start, found that those who were exposed to a period of music learning, showed enhancement in multiple brain areas compared to the others.
This recent research about the mental benefits of playing music has advanced our understanding of mental function, revealing the inner rhythms and complex interplay that make up the amazing orchestra of our brain.
This is an encouragement to practice just to help keep all those areas of the brain active and "lit up."
Okay, this is for extra credit. Not mandatory. But interesting.
Neuroscientists get excited about watching the brain functions of musicians because?
A Musicians use different parts of their brain to complete tasks
B Musicians use more of their brain to complete tasks
C Musicians use more parts of their brain simultaneously to complete tasks
D Musicians use their brains surprisingly when completing tasks
Learning a musical instrument engages which different areas of the brain at the same time?
A Visual, motor and cerebral cortices
B Auditory, motor and visual cortices
C Motor, cerebral and auditory cortices
D Cerebral, motor and fine motor cortices
The bridge between the two brain hemispheres is called?
A Corpum callum
B Coopco coolism
C Capum cullim
D Corpus callosum
Learning a musical instrument teaches your brain how to create, ______ and retrieve memories more effectively?
Executive function is a series of interlinked tasks that includes planning, strategizing, and attention to ________.
Executive function is a complex combination of brain functions that requires analysis of both the cognitive and emotional aspects of a problem or situation. What type of complex problems of situations could you think of that would use your executive function capabilities?
Learning a musical instrument has been found to assist in our memory abilities. How does your capacity to remember facts, ideas, things you have seen and heard, impact on your ability to learn?
“Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.”
What could be some of the short and long term effects of keeping your brain in tip-top physical shape?