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Thursday, April 20, 2017

9 Ways Learning An Instrument Strengthens Your Brain | Musical U

Photo: Christopher Sutton
"Did you know that learning an instrument can seriously strengthen your brain? Don’t believe us? Here are 9 ways it helps." according to Christopher Sutton, Founder and Director of Musical U

Growing up, your mom told you to practice the piano. When you asked why, she would either say, “Because it’s good for you!” or, “Because I said so!” Perhaps this led to you feeling frustrated and eventually giving up the instrument. It’s a common occurrence.

Photo: Musical U
Now that you’re older, you know that playing an instrument might be fun, but you can’t come up with a compelling reason why it should take away time from other important things. Or maybe you want to get started but your significant other thinks it might be a waste of time.

Mom knew it was good, but she probably wasn’t aware of the details. Fortunately, today’s scientific research on the brain reveals many amazing and surprising benefits to learning music at any age.

Here are nine very good reasons to start playing an instrument, all related to your brain. Once you’ve read them, you’ll have to come up with reasons not to play an instrument.
1. Playing Music Increases Our Connection To Others 

This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has played in a band. Scientific research suggests that playing music with others actually strengthens our connections with those people.

As Jill Suttie from Berkley writes:
Performing music involves coordinating of our efforts, too… at least if we want to produce a pleasing sound. According to researchers, when we try to synch with others musically – keeping the beat or harmonizing, for example – we tend to feel positive social feelings towards those with whom we’re synchronizing, even if that person is not visible to us or not in the same room. Though it’s unclear exactly why that happens, coordinating movement with another person is linked to the release of pleasure chemicals (endorphins) in the brain, which may explain why we get those positive, warm feelings when we make music together.
Playing in a band is an experience like no other. It forces close communication with your bandmates to stay in sync and avoid musical trainwrecks. This close communication leads to close connection, which often translates into deeper friendships.

2. Learning An Instrument Strengthens Memory and Reading Skills 
Good news for children: learning an instrument can significantly improve both verbal memory and childhood literacy. In other words, when children learn instruments, they remember more and read more effectively.

Childhood reading skills translate into success or failure later in life. Low reading skills significantly hamper a child’s ability to succeed in their career.

A study in 2011 at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University concluded that:
Both musical ability and literacy correlated with enhanced electrical signals within the auditory brainstem. Structural equation modeling of the data revealed that music skill, together with how the nervous system responds to regularities in auditory input and auditory memory/attention accounts for about 40% of the difference in reading ability between children. These results add weight to the argument that music and reading are related via common neural and cognitive mechanisms and suggests a mechanism for the improvements in literacy seen with musical training
Let’s paraphrase that into layman’s speech. Both musical ability and literacy show increased electrical signals in the brain, demonstrating that music and reading both tap into the same brain abilities. In even simpler terms, learn music and read more effectively.

And let’s not assume that these benefits dissolve after early childhood! The brain is adaptable, and learning an instrument most likely transfers similar benefits to adults.
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Source: Musical U