Have you ever watched a musician playing an instrument?
If you are older than 4, you most probably have. It seems so simple, elegant and easy, doesn’t it?
The musician just moves his fingers on the instrument and you are thrown on the emotional roller-coaster the music produces.
You may wonder how is this person capable of remembering all of those notes and combining them in the most perfect of ways?
The truth is that even though a musician looks calm and steady, there is a party going on inside of his brain every time he picks up the instrument. And this party separates him from all the other people in the room.
And you might say, well how do we know there is a difference between a musician’s and non musician’s brain, and if there is one, what’s causing it?
If we go deep inside the brain we can see what happens there during regular activities such as reading and writing and compare that to what happens while listening or playing music.
Recently, neuroscientists were able to monitor people’s brains in real time by connecting them to a machine which lights up and shows which areas of the brain are responsible for each activity.
When you are talking for example, a small light in the left hemisphere of the brain will light up on the screen. On the other hand when you are drawing a painting, a light on the right hemisphere will light up.
Interestingly enough when when they connected a musician playing an instrument to the machine they saw multiple parts of the brain lighting up and simultaneously processing different information.
Order, fastness and interrelation were noticed. Almost every area of the brain seemed engaged at once. So it turns out that, Playing an instrument involves the interconnectedness between several components present in the brain.
Most notably the motor, sensory, visual, and auditory components of the nervous system. This in turn results in positive effects on reasoning, fine motor skills, learning and memory, resulting in an overall more capable and efficient brain.
And with this full brain workout that involves the artistic and aesthetic dimensions of learning that is a unique of playing an instrument, musicians are able to apply this newly-gained strength to all other activities as well.
We all have that one situation when we are headed to the store to buy some coffee, and then when we get inside the store and we buy everything else, but the coffee.
Well, a musician would most likely not have this problem, because his memory is better organized than ours.
As stated in a paper by Anne Stoklosa based on research by Anita Collins: This memory enhancement is attributed to the musicians highly connected brains giving a memory multiple tags.
This process is subconsciously trained when learning to play an instrument because of the interconnectedness between the visual, auditory, and motor functioning and activity going on in the brain when we play a musical instrument. Pretty neat.
Now let’s go back inside the brain again. We know that the brain is divided into two hemispheres, the left being the logical and linguistic one, and the right being the creative.
There is a bridge between them called the corpus callosum, a massive bundle of nerve fibres connecting the two sides.
And scientists found that this ‘bridge‘ has bigger volume and activity within musicians, allowing the two hemispheres to interact more effectively with each other enabling them to solve academic and social problems more efficiently.
Not only that musicians brains are anatomically different, they also function on different and more divergent ways.
They can use their increased cognitive and emotional skills in almost all aspects of life. You probably already feel a bit jealous because they get to use their brain on a whole nother level, and you probably are still wondering if playing an instrument will make you a genius?
Are the long hours of practicing in front of the piano the secret formula to unlocking the full potential of your brain?
Even though we can’t promise you that you will become the next Einstein (anyway he played the violin so there’s that), the great news is that according to a recent research- anyone who plays an instrument, even if he started at an old age, showed some kind of increased brain functioning.
It’s actually a good prevention for old age brain diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Even though there is still a lot of research to be done on the subject, we’re are more sure than ever that playing an instrument is one of the most demanding and rewarding activities for your brain.
This remarkable sensory rich process is one of the best exercises you can provide for your brain. Why stop with only exercising your body, when you can also exercise your mind.
And now you know, and it’s ultimately your choice, whether you decide to you pick up the instrument and make some noise.