Need proof that playing a musical instrument is good for your brain?

See What the Experts Have to Say.

Whether you already know how to play a musical instrument (or two, or three, or more), are considering learning to play an instrument, or are weighing the pros and cons about having your child learn to play piano or just another instrument, it’s important to know that musical training is awesome for your brain.

You already know that listening to music affects your mood and your thoughts. After all, there are some songs that make you want to sing and dance, and others…well… other songs make you think of owning a better set of earplugs. But what about learning to make your own music? What does that do to your brain?

Since we’re so into doing research here at Gismart, we decided to look into the effects that learning to play a musical instrument has on the brain. Boy, did we find a lot of information! Here’s some of what we already knew was true, but wanted to have the experts tell you themselves:

Musical training as youths prevented decay in speech and listening skills in older adults.

According to a study led by the Rotman Research Institute and published in the Journal of Neuroscience, adults who learned to play a musical instrument when they were under 14 years old and continued to play for up to 10 years were able to hear and differentiate speech sounds much more clearly than those who did not play any musical instruments.

During the study, neural activity of each participant was recorded using a brain imaging technique called electroencephalography, or EEG. The EEG basically shows in detail what part of the brain is working when the person is exposed to a stimulus – in this case, a sound. The study showed that the brains of the musicians showed “more efficient and robust neurophysiological processing of speech at multiple tiers of auditory processing, paralleling enhancements reported in younger musicians.” [1]

piano-606080_1920Basically, older musicians hear better – they are able to distinguish different sounds a lot better than those who did not have any musical training when they were younger.

But let’s not focus on the long-term effects. How about now? What’s in it for you if you learn to play an instrument now? How about your kids?

Well, it turns out that children who play a musical instrument become better learners than those who don’t. A study led by Dr. Nina Kraus at Northwestern University in 2014 involving hundreds of disadvantaged children at high schools in Chicago and Los Angeles found that musical training can alter (or basically rewire) the brain to create a better learner.

Dr. Kraus said that the study showed that music appeared to have remodeled the brain to improve the connections between sounds and meaning. Music positive impact on learning by enabling children to focus on a particular sound despite any background noise.[2]

How cool is that?

So go ahead. It’s never too late to learn to play an instrument. It benefits you now. It benefits you later. And we’ve made it easy for you to do.

Make your own music and make it now. Your brain will thank you many times over.

[1] G. M. Bidelman, C. Alain. Musical Training Orchestrates Coordinated Neuroplasticity in Auditory Brainstem and Cortex to Counteract Age-Related Declines in Categorical Vowel Perception. Journal of Neuroscience, 2015; 35 (3): 1240 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3292-14.2015

[2] Nina Kraus, Jessica Slater, Elaine C. Thompson, Jane Hornickel, Dana L. Strait, Trent Nicol, and Travis White-Schwoch. Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Communication Sciences, Neuroscience Program, and Departments of Neurobiology and Physiology, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, and Department of Otolaryngology, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois 60611, and Data Sense LLC, Chicago, Illinois 60660