Playing Music Makes Us Smarter
In recent decades neuro-scientists were able to successfully see in real time what happens inside our brains when we do certain tasks. With the help of FMRI and PET machines, these scientists were able to see what areas of the brain light up when we read, do math problems or talk. Each of these activities has a certain part of the brain which does most of the work. However when people were put to listen to music, the entire brain lit up.
In a fraction of a second our brains break the music apart to understand melody and rhythm and then put it back together, even before we start to tap our feet. When scientists turned their attention from music listeners to musicians, they realized that this activity went into a frenzy. Playing music is for the brain the equivalent of a full body workout.
Even if this research is fairly new, scientists are pretty confident that playing a musical instrument helps our brain develop new connections all throughout, engaging especially its visual, auditory and motor parts. As compared to just listening, playing music also involves a lot of coordination and motor skills which can be found in both hemispheres of the brain. This alone makes a stronger bond inside our heads and helps us, not just in playing music, but also in problem solving of all sorts.
And because musicians also understand the crafting and emotional setting of a song, they have a higher level of executive function which includes: strategizing, planning and attention to detail and require analysis of both the cognitive and emotional aspects. This also improves our memory in both the short and long term.
Research so far has shown that no other activity has the same qualities as music playing and would be encouraged for everyone of us to practice it. In short, it would make us a lot smarter and quicker to react to virtually everything, if we played the harmonica or the piano or a trumpet or whatever.
We thank the team at TED-Ed for sharing these findings with us and we hope that it will make you think twice about those guitar lessons you are putting off for so long.