January 16, 2014 by Don Russo
We briefly touched on this benefit of music in a previous post 5 Benefits of Music Lessons and we will delve into that a little more here.
In doing some research on this subject, I found out something really cool.
Drum roll please….
Music is INSANELY good for your brain. (No pun intended.)
But seriously, the fact that something so fun/creative is as good for you as school is? WHAT? Not that it negates the need for a good education, but I was really happy to know that I’ve been doing my brain a huge favor by choosing to have music be such a vital part of my life.
Let’s start with some basic science…for those of you who like evidence to back things up. If you don’t care to hear the science, feel free to skip to the next paragraph for some incredible stats on the effects of music on the brain (we all love some good stats). 10 different parts of our brain process music, and I will spare the names as they are complicated. The point is, music stimulates our brain in multiple areas, the majority even, not just one small part.
A simple explanation would be this, about half of those areas of the brain have to do with the effects of LISTENING to music. Music can help shape our emotions, identify feelings, help predict our personalities, and even help us be better drivers (when not too loud, of course). The other half has to do with what PLAYING music does to our brain, which is the main focus of this post.
Playing, teaching, learning/listening to music does the following:
Improves motor and reasoning skills, i.e. better performance on tests, school work, analysis of visual information, etc.
Increases visual attention.
Makes exercise more efficient/even more frequent.
Increases lifelong memory skills
…I could go on, but it seems that scientists who have dedicated their lives to these studies say it a tad bit better than I do. P.S. Read them all if you can, b/c we obviously picked the coolest ones. 😀
“Adults who receive formal music instruction as children have more robust brainstem
responses to sound than peers who never participate in music lessons and that the
magnitude of the response correlates with how recently training ceased. These results
suggest that neural changes accompanying musical training during childhood are
retained in adulthood.”
— Skoe, E. & Kraus, N. (2012). A Little Goes a Long Way: How the Adult Brain Is
Shaped by Musical Training in Childhood, Journal of Neuroscience, 32 (34)
11510. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1949-12.2012
“Young Children who take music lessons show different brain development and
improved memory over the course of a year, compared to children who do not receive
musical training. Musically trained children performed better in a memory test that is
correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial
processing, mathematics, and IQ.”
— Dr. Laurel Trainor, Prof. of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behavior at
McMaster University, 2006
Stanford University research has found
“Stanford University research has found for the first time that musical training improves
how the brain processes the spoken word, a finding that researchers say could lead to
improving the reading ability of children who have dyslexia and other reading
problems… ‘Especially for children … who aren’t good at rapid auditory processing and
are high-risk for becoming poor readers, they may especially benefit from musical
— From “Playing music can be good for your brain,” SF Chronicle, November 17,
2005 (article on recent Stanford research study linking music and language)
“Learning and performing music actually exercise the brain – not merely by developing
specific music skills, but also by strengthening the synapses between brain cells…What
is important is not how well a student plays but rather the simultaneous engagement of
senses, muscles, and intellect. Brain scans taken during musical performances show
that virtually the entire cerebral cortex is active while musicians are playing. Can you
think of better exercise for the mind/brain? In short, making music actively engages the
brain synapses, and there is good reason to believe that it increases the brain’s capacity
by increasing the strengths of connections among neurons.”
— From “The Music in Our Minds,” Educational Leadership, Vol. 56, #3; Norman
Nearly 100% of past winners in the prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Competition in
Math, Science, and Technology (for high School students) play one or more musical
instruments. This led the Siemens Foundation to host a recital at Carnegie Hall in 2004,
featuring some of these young people. After which a panel of experts debated the
nature of the apparent science/music link.
— The Midland Chemist (American Chemical Society) Vol. 42, No.1, Feb. 2005
Dr. James Catterall of UCLA has analyzed the school records of 25,000 students as
they moved from grade 8 to grade 10. He found that students who studied music and
the arts had higher grades, scored better on standardized tests, had better attendance
records and were more active in community affairs than other students. He also found
that students from poorer families who studied the arts improved overall school
performance more rapidly than all other students.
— From Catterall, UCLA, Fall 1997
Though it’s crucial to invest in math, science and engineering, as the president outlined
in his recent State of the Union address, there are other fields that hold more
promise…Prefer a more artistic career? Our economy is poised to create new forms of
entertainment, from rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop to film and video games. Indeed, over the
next 10 years, jobs in art, music, culture and entertainment will grow twice as many as
jobs in engineering will.
— From “A search for jobs in some of the wrong places,” USA Today, February
12, 2006; Richard Florida
The moral of the story is this, if you enjoy music, play it, listen to it, whatever. No matter how well you do, no matter how advanced you are, the sheer activity that it produces in the brain will make you smarter, improve your self confidence, and increase your memory among other great things. And that you won’t be the one that forgets anyone’s birthday, anniversary, etc.
Go get em’ you musical genius, you.