Your Brain On Music

Neuroscience is fascinating – especially when it comes to the study of how listening to music and playing a musical instrument affects our brains. Scientific advancements have allowed neurologists to monitor the brain in real time to observe how it reacts to various activities, including music. According to Johns Hopkins, “There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does.”

How does music affect our brains in such a profound way?

Music is made up of multiple components; melody, rhythm, pitch, musical expression and artistry. Listening to music activates the parts of the brain that decipher each of those elements. For instance, the mathematical nature of rhythm causes the analytical left hemisphere of the brain to begin processing while the musicality and emotion of the music affects the creative right hemisphere. Playing a musical instrument increases the brain activity even more. Music is the only activity that stimulates the auditory, visual, and motor regions all at the same time. According to an article in Education Week, the Society for Neuroscience found that “music training may increase the neural connections in regions of the brain associated with creativity, decisionmaking, and complex memory, and they may improve a student’s ability to process conflicting information from many senses at once.”

Make the Connection

Brain activity caused by playing a musical instrument strengthens the connections between the various regions and hemispheres of the brain. The result? Faster comprehension, processing, problem solving, and even an improvement in memory. The ability of the brain to adapt, change, and even heal is known as plasticity. Formerly it was believed that the plasticity of the brain was only for the young, but science has found that the brain retains some of its plasticity as we age. Music increases the plasticity of the brain and opens up new neural pathways. Brain injuries are even being treated using musical training. The more the brain is stimulated, the better it functions.

The Benefits

While the full scope of the effects of music may not yet be understood, numerous studies have found amazing benefits in both listening to music and playing a musical instrument.

Listening to music can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Lower pain levels
  • Improve memory
  • Fight dementia
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Elevate mood
  • Reduce depression
  • Increase cognitive learning

Playing a musical instrument adds the following benefits to the above:

  • Coordination
  • Fine motor skills
  • Problem solving
  • Increase in quality of speech and understanding of language

The science of how music affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally is truly a breakthrough in understanding the organ that only comprises about 2% of an adult’s mass. Every year we learn more and more about the science of music and the brain. With such a full list of benefits in mind, I encourage you to pick up your instrument and enjoy! Go build those neural connections, knowing that regardless of whether you play accordion, guitar, piano or another instrument, you are building memory strength, cognitive functions, and enjoying the rewards and pleasure of making music.

February 14, 2017

4 responses on "Your Brain On Music"

  1. This is Great! As I am getting older 🙁 I do find that the mind needs more exercising but I am not a crossword puzzle type of guy. However Music is right up my alley and if listening and playing music will improve my mind, sign me up!

  2. Hi Corrie I am going to let you in on my priceless life experience This article touches it really closely. My wife is a special ed teacher in Canada, she watches how music has effected my brain priceless. She is now trying to use music on students with different levels of cognitive disabilities after seeing how it has effected my connection with everything from communication to everything. when I was a kid I had major head injuries, yes the accordion was a part of my life then, I lost it for many many year. The connection with the mind how it makes you think and when you do that on a regular basis I can feel it getting stronger, more connection in communication. I went through a time in life of being very ashamed, since I picked it up again the help it has made is priceless. If you saw me in person today you would not see it.Back then six weeks after it happen I had been awake for about a week when the Dr’s said to my parents that I would never be a part of functioning society since I would never walk ect…… I was determined to say every one was wrong I won!!!!!!!! I had this teacher that used music of all things back then to prove to teachers that said I had no right to being apart of public education. How things have changed since then. The connection that the brain has with music is priceless. I can imagine Yev sees that too in me. But people that have head injuries lots of time they don’t have that opportunity what a wonderful experience again, I have so much to learn about music and the piano accordion, hope you did not mind me sharing that. I know it cuts like a knife to think what that must be like take care Rob

    • HI Rob,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s wonderful to hear how music has helped you through that trauma and I can tell you are a fighter. We’re happy to have you as part of the studio and love that you are enjoying your music.
      Thank you again for sharing your inspiring story!

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