You may have heard that playing an instrument can improve brain function. But how, exactly? Read on to find out:
It's a "total workout for the brain." Penn Medicine News says it is one of the best ways that we can keep our brains healthy because it utilizes both hemispheres of the brain, the peripheral nervous system (fine/gross motor movements), the brain's executive function (planning, decision-making) and the total sensory input (emotional, auditory, visual).
It can protect against cognitive impairment and dementia. Check out the results from this study from the Internaional Journal of Alzheimer's Disease: "Controlling for sex, education, and physical activity, playing a musical instrument was significantly associated with less likelihood of dementia and cognitive impairment (odds ratio [OR] = 0.36 [95% confidence interval 0.13–0.99]). These findings support further consideration of music as a modifiable protective factor against dementia and cognitive impairment."
It can help rehab the brain. Check out this study from the Journal of Neurology which shows how music can help rehap patients recovering from a stroke: "Patients showed significant improvement after treatment with respect to speed, precision and smoothness of movements as shown by 3D movement analysis and clinical motor tests. Furthermore, compared to the control subjects, motor control in everyday activities improved significantly."
It can create neuroplasticity. If we want our brains to be able to adapt and change, learning a musical instrument is a great way to help "rewire the brain."
It actually changes the brain. The Guardian reports that the brain structure between musicians and non-musicians of the same age are different. "For example, the corpus callosum, a massive bundle of nerve fibres connecting the two sides of the brain, is significantly larger in musicians. The brain areas involved in movement, hearing, and visuo-spatial abilities also appear to be larger in professional keyboard players. And, the area devoted to processing touch sensations from the left hand is increased in violinists."