Learning a musical instrument is good for your brain. Fact.

Whether you already know how to play a musical instrument (or two, or three, or more!), or are considering learning to play an instrument, it’s important to know that musical training is fantastic for your brain.

You already know that listening to music affects your mood and your thoughts. After all, some songs make you want to sing and dance, and others… well, other songs make you think of purchasing a better set of earplugs. However, have you thought about the effects of learning to play a musical instrument on your brain?

The Effects

At Gismart, we’re into doing our research, so we decided to look into the effects that learning to play a musical instrument has on the brain. Here’s some of what we already knew was true, but wanted to have the experts tell you themselves:

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

According to a study led by the Rotman Research Institute, 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. During this study, the neural activity of each participant was recorded using a brain imaging technique called electroencephalography, or EEG. The EEG 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 minds of musicians showed a “more efficient and robust neurophysiological processing of speech at multiple tiers of auditory processing.” [1]

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Musicians hear better – they can distinguish different sounds more effectively than those who did not have any musical training when they were younger.

What are the positive effects for you, or your children, if you started to learn a musical instrument today?

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 fundamentally 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 positively impacted 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 helps you later. Also, we’ve made it easy for you to do. Trust us. 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