Some people prefer an active hobby like playing chess, solving crosswords or reading as a form of brain stimulation. However, if you’re looking for an activity that keeps your brain sharp and could be a lot of fun at the same time, learning to play a musical instrument is a great idea. It is actually one of the best exercises for the brain that also provides long-lasting benefits. It requires every part of the brain to be engaged at once and can potentially change the brain structure.
Apart from strengthening your senses of vision, hearing, touching and fine movements at once, how else can you (and your brain) benefit from playing a musical instrument?
1. Music Strengthens Memory.
Learning to play an instrument requires and gives you a good memory simultaneously.
A study conducted on cognitive control in auditory working memory also shows that the neural activity of musicians increases during enhanced working memory performance, compared to that of non-musicians. The benefit may be a consequence of focused musical training.
In order to freely express yourself in music , you need to remember several different pieces of music. To become a confident musician, you may need to take a step further. Generally speaking, people prefer a musician who plays a piece of music from memory to one who is reading from the score. This might be good news for some of you who want to train your musical skill and elevate your memory at the same time.
2. Music Changes Brain Structure.
Through extensive studies of brain scans, scientists can see the difference in the brain structure between musicians and non-musicians.
After a closer and thorough analysis over a period of time, they conclude that playing a musical instrument increases the grey matter volume in many brain regions. It also strengthens connections between neurons and increases communications across the brain hemispheres.
Once the grey matter volume increases, it promotes the brain plasticity and allows the brain to process information more effectively.
3. Music Reduces Stress.
We all know that music can lower stress and anxiety levels. Many studies show that people who listen to music and those who play music benefit from it likewise.
Stress is also related to memory. When we’re stressed, we can’t remember things well. Stress can cause severe changes and damages to certain areas of the brain. It also affects many cognitive functions, including thinking and learning skills.
Once filled with calmness, our brain is able to make sense, store and recall what we learn. Playing music not only makes us happy, but also improves our memory over time.
4. Music Improves Attention Span.
Some people love to play music in the background while working, driving or studying since it helps them to stay focused. Your own experience may confirm this. However, playing a musical instrument takes your attention span to the next level.
Unlike listening to music, playing an instrument forces your attention to focus on the task at hand. Music also trains your ability to maintain focus for a certain period of time without getting distracted. A study from Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and the Universidad del Desarrollo Chile shows that children, aged 10 – 13 years old, who practice music regularly at least 2 hours per week have improved their attention and working memory. It is hoped that the same results would be seen in adults.
5. Music Improves Hand-Eye Coordination.
Have you ever spectated a performance by a genius pianist and been completely blown away by the speed of their finger movements? Apparently, advanced hand-eye coordination is particularly observed in pianists.
Good hand-eye coordination is important as it allows us to effectively perform everyday tasks with speed and accuracy. Hand-eye coordination requires both fine and motor skills. It also declines as we age.
Playing a musical instrument is great for improving and sustaining hand-eye coordination. When playing music, the brain is generally in sync with with the body. For beginners, when learning an instrument, the eyes are fixed on the scores. The symbols are interpreted and converted in the brain. Then, it’s the fingers, hands and feet that create the magic on the instrument. It’s a sophisticated collaboration internally and externally.
Playing a musical instrument benefits the young brain and the ageing brain alike.
When practicing a musical skill, all parts of the brain are engaged and stimulated. Playing a musical instrument not only improves your overall brain function and cognition, but also your overall performance in everyday situations.
Playing a musical instrument greatly boosts our brain power in a way not many other mental activities can do. All these may seem to be challenging for some people at the beginning. However, once you keep the momentum going, it should become effortless and rewarding over time.
Next time you play an instrument, think of it not only as a fun activity, but also a cognitive and mental workout.
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