How Music Affects the Brain

By Felicia M.

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It is no secret that learning and playing a musical instrument has great effects on the human brain. No matter the instrument or style of music, everyone has the ability to benefit from music education. Studies have been performed by some of the most prestigious institutions in the world, and all have shown that musical education can improve academic and social-emotional characteristics of students.

Music has been found to activate more parts of the human brain than any other activity. One of the most amazing facts is that playing music has been known to put the corpus callosum into action. This fancily named region is what connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain. On top of that, playing music also activates the hippocampus (memory), auditory cortex (hearing), sensory cortex (feeling), motor cortex (movement), visual cortex (seeing), frontal lobe (behaviour), nucleus accumbens (emotion), amygdala (emotion), and cerebellum (movement). These are just the major regions. On an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan of the brain, there is activity almost everywhere in the brain. MRI scanners read this by sensing the electrical pulses that the brain uses to transmit information. Sadly, this is hard to prove without an MRI scanner immediately on hand, but you can find videos online of the scans.

On the more noticeable side of things, playing music also increases fine motor skills such as hand-eye coordination, discipline, patience, social skill, self esteem, and academia. The improvement of fine motor skills comes with the often complicated requirements of movement in order to get the right sound out of an instrument, while discipline, patience, and work ethic come from diligently practicing. Social skills arise from the cooperation needed to form a successful band, and self esteem and a sense of achievement stems from the improvements students can see themselves making as their skills progress. The success of students’ academia can be attributed to a combination of these things. It has also been shown that students who play a musical instrument have a higher IQ than those who do not. The stragglers among this high achieving population still show great affections for their music. Students with a high likelihood of dropping out of high school, many have said that the music and arts programs that they were a part of is the reason they decided to stay in school.

These are not the only benefits, however. Playing music from a young age can help children develop better language skills and spatial reasoning. No matter the age, music also helps improve students’ memorization skills, which is also attributed to the high academic performance of Band students. A desire for high craftsmanship also stems from music education, which pushes students to take more care in their work. Music can be relaxing, reducing stress and helping people to cope with anxiety. This is partly achieved by the stress caused by upcoming performances and examinations. While playing music causes stress, it helps with coping in the long run. It also increases empathy in students for other people and cultures.

Music is used as a form of therapy for troubled children. It helps promote, social, physical, and emotional, spiritual health and is used to maintain a sense of self-worth and -awareness in children suffering from physical and mental disorders and disabilities.

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