I wonder who has not heard a parent, student or school staff member think out loud what the purpose of music is and why we should be teaching our it to our children. Very few agree that there is much of a career progression for our kids in music, but as this blog will discuss, there are very strong research trends that show music increases brain power.
There is the glaringly obvious considerations when it comes to learning and playing music, such as the joy factor, the engagement with social peers and the ability for someone to express what they are feeling or thinking in a different kind of way. There was an excellent TED-X lesson I watched recently that depicts how those that learn to play musical instruments increase their brain function and work at a higher cognitive level. It was written by Anita Collins, who has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience and Music Education. You can see the video for yourself at the bottom of this article.
Within the last few months, MIT researchers have printed findings that show neurons in our brains are tuned specifically to processing the sound of music, suggesting that music might have had an impacting role throughout the evolution of our brain development. Combined with the fact that we have found musical instruments from as far back as 70,000 years ago, it’s obvious that music is essential to our societies.
The video at the end of this article is something I am sharing with my students and their parents. It discusses neuroscientific research from recent history showing how the brain responds during specific activities, in real time. Neuro Scientists have discovered that every activity we do, there seems to have a specific location in the brain where those neurons are processed.
It appears that listening to music lightens up multiple areas throughout the brain simultaneously, and even greater brain activity among those who actually play music. The art of playing music results in complicated, fast and intricate pathways being created throughout all areas of the brain, in particular the sensory areas that look after motor functions, visual functions and auditory functions. Constant practice in music appears to strengthen those functions, which allows musicians to apply them to everything else they do in their daily lives.
Playing and practicing the art of music increases the amount of neurons being transmitted across the Corpus Colosseum, which scientists say is the bridge between the left side of the brain (linguistic and calculating), and the right side (creative and expressive), allowing messages between the two sides to pass through faster and via more intricate routes.
This development links into higher brain function that involves things like the ability to plan what things are about to happen, an amazing attention to detail and the balancing of both emotional and cognitive information. Learning music has the potential of helping students excel in problem-solving that is needed in all sorts of settings in today’s world, whether it be their jobs, their academic studies or even just improvising on the spot. Developing musical skills seems to enhance memory also. It has been found that musicians in general seem to be able to attach multiple tags or classifications to their memories so that memories can be easily found and connected to other thoughts at a faster rate. What’s also intriguing is that these only seem to relate to music and not other arts or tasks.
So the next time someone mutters or murmurs out loud what the point of learning music or paying to learn music is, you should let them know music improves brain activity.