Music Matters- December 2014

Posted by in Uncategorized | December 15, 2014

Did you know that learning playing a musical instrument  is different to other any activity, at least from a neurological (brain science) perspective? Recent studies using the latest machines that go ping, like the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and Positron Emission Tomography machines, have identified that listening to music initiates a large array of activity in the brain.

Going one step further, by PLAYING a musical instrument, the brain lights up on these machines like a Christmas tree! Multiple areas of the brain are being stimulated concurrently, creating neural pathways, and giving the brain a thorough workout. The visual, auditory, and motor cortices, all working independently, but collectively allowing the brain’s owner to perform miraculous feats of fine motor skills, decoding a mathematical program, all whilst interpreting, understanding and conveying a composer’s sentiment at the time of writing their piece. Pretty tricky!!

The most significant part of the brain that sparks up is the corpus callosum, that area of the brain that lies between the two hemispheres of the brain. This is where it gets really cool, as this is that part of the brain that can potentially ‘unify’ the mathematical and linguistic left side of the brain, with the more dreamy creative right side. The resultant brain now has improved function at executive tasks, and recent research has proven enhanced memory function as well. What’s the bad news? There is none!

This research really aligns very closely with the anecdotal evidence that all the 17 regional conservatoriums around NSW report, including South West music Regional Conservatorium. And this is simply that students that learn musical instruments (properly) for a period longer than two years are consistently scoring higher grades and are among the top performers academically and socially at school. The benefits of a musical education are now well documented and have been now quantified by research projects like this.

Research has also discovered that people taking up an instrument later in life have displayed benefits in the exciting field of neural plasticity, warding off some of the more degenerative brain conditions that we are all too familiar with in an ageing population.

Aside from the physiological positive outcomes, learning an instrument is also fun! It creates a new environment to meet people, an opportunity to perform and stretch the comfort zone, and possess a lifelong skill that will be the envy of all.

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