Exercising the brain is just as important as exercising the body. But just like physical activity, and while all exercise is better than no exercise, some brain trainings trump others and lend the greatest benefits.
In fact, playing music helps the brain more than any other activity. And besides the potential to leverage cognition, making music may just be the most fun way to keep the brain active!
Learn how music is good for your brain and just how you can, too, communicate the universal language!
How Is Music Good for Your Brain?
Music on its own stimulates the brain’s reward center. Dopamine, also known as that "feel good" hormone, is released and the stress hormone is reduced. The coupled changes in the hormones can in turn cause greater feelings of happiness, excitement, and joy.
What's more, music has a deep connection to memories, in which certain songs can cause us to reminisce on the past and re-experience the connected emotions.
But in addition to the enjoyment and memories of music, playing it affects the composition of the brain for the better and proven to lend a number of benefits across all stages of life.
How Playing Music Affects the Brain
Think about it: A musician must process a lot of information to carryout a tune, including concentrating on the sheet music, counting notes and rhythms, coordinating the hands and eyes, listening to and refining pitches, and improvising on the whim as needed.
Musicians have notably shown to have differences in varying brain regions. According to a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience there were notable gray matter volume differences in motor, auditory, and visual-spatial brain regions when comparing professional musicians with a matched group of amateur musicians and non-musicians.
But it does not take countless years to observe prominent brain changes. For the first time, a longitudinal study shows structural brain changes can emerge only 15 months of musical training in early childhood!
The Benefits of Learning Music
The benefits of learning music can start at a young age, especially when childrens' brains are developing. What's more, the National Association for Music Education suggests sustaining music education in schools helps develop language and reasoning, master memorization, enhance emotional development, better test scores, fight off stress, improve creativity, build self-confidence, amongst several other benefits.
Though evidence shows the longer time playing and training in music bares greater cognitive gains, the benefits of learning and playing an instrument can still manifest at any age. In fact, a study published in the Frontiers of Psychology suggests playing piano and learning to read music can be a useful intervention in older adults to promote cognitive reserve and improve well-being.
Overall, learning music can enhance overall quality of life and stave against age-related diseases that impact the brain, including Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Music: The Universal Language
(And How to Communicate with It)
Beyond the structural changes and cognitive benefits of music, it is essentially the universal language we can all feel connected with by hearing the same melody.
Research also proves that music is a universal language, with co-author of the study and psychologist Dr. Samuel Mehr stating, "Despite the staggering diversity of music influenced by countless cultures and readily available to the modern listener, our shared human nature may underlie basic musical structures that transcend cultural differences."
And whether learning how to play an instrument with an instructor or playing with a band, there is a strong sense of connection to others. Social bonds are also key for improving and sustaining emotional and brain health.
Communicating with Music
So whether 14, 67, or far and in between, there is no denying the music and brain development research is compelling enough to pick up an instrument at any age. But you don't necessarily have to be the next Beethoven, either. (Unless, you have goals to be!)
Ultimately, making music can be as inventive as you imagine, inspired by anything, and created virtually anywhere! And this energetic bistroMD member shows us just how innovative and fun making music can be…
With the rock star sporting shades in the kitchen jingling to the words, "Well, I guess you'd say what can make me lose this weight? Bistro. Bistro. Bistro. Talking 'bout Bistro… MD!" eating gourmet meals to lose weight has never sounded or looked so great!
("I guess you'd say what can make me look so great? … Talking 'bout Bistro… MD!")
So, the point is music can be catchy and connecting, listening to it can be joyous and leave a lasting impression, and making it has some pretty powerful brain benefits at any age!