Music on the Brain

I do not, in any circumstance, consider myself a musical person. I played the recorder in grade four, the flute in grade six and the acoustic guitar in grade seven, but played none of them well. Hot Cross Buns was about the extent of my musical knowledge and capability. Despite my lack of musical talent, I have always admired those who could play a musical instrument, or even multiple. To me, this skill is unfathomable, however I understand that it is achievable with practice and has many beneficial outcomes upon the musician. It is commonly acknowledged that playing and learning a musical instrument allows for many skills to develop such as, coordination, expression, discipline, memory recollection and reading. Along with many of the psychological developments, the physical brain itself changes, especially in developing brains. In order to study the effects of music on the brain, technology such as Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging and (fMRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG) are used.   Many studies have been conducted to demonstrate the therapeutic effects of music in cognitive thinking and abilities that often decline with age such as, hearing, quick recognition and memory. However, not many articles explain how exactly music causes these changes. According to Science Daily, although music has therapeutic effects on the brain, the act of actually playing an instrument is what most effectively helps the brain. The brain is a very complex organ and is still not fully comprehended by scientists, but they have been able to conduct a series of experiments to monitor the brain which allowed for the following explanations. The brain structures of musicians and non-musicians were examined and it was found that the corpus callosum, which is a bundle of nerves that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain, was larger in musicians. The same result is found in the grey matter of the two brain structures. This is significant because the grey matter of the brain is responsible for much of the brain’s functions such as sensory communication, emotion, impulse control and executive functions. I always knew that playing a musical instrument provided many psychological benefits. However, I never knew how or why and that was because the brain is a very complex study. It’s quite marvelous the influence of learning to play an instrument on the physical level from the change in volume of grey matter or the nerve cells between the two hemispheres of the brain. Suddenly, I feel inspired to pick up my old flute and practice, but I’m not sure how happy my neighbors would be.

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