It is well known that playing an instrument can relieve stress and hours spent learning Mozart’s 5th symphony can help develop patience and concentration. A lesser known fact is that the sections of the brain that are stimulated when a person learns to play an instrument can also improve commonplace skills, such as being alert, planning and emotional perception.
Playing an instrument involves the stimulation of multiple components of your brain, resulting in some very real changes to its structure. This is because all four neural systems, motor, sensory, emotional and analytical, are involved. By combining multiple systems, it challenges the brain to adapt, creating more integration of the brain circuits and therefore increasing neuroplasticity.
Research has shown that active participation in music lessons can aid a child’s brain development, due to the brain becoming more familiar with processing and distinguishing sounds. This can also improve speech and literacy and, in later life, musicians are often better at deducing feelings of empathy and disappointment by the tone of others voices.
Research has also shown that playing an instrument can help keep the brain sharp into old age. The structural changes that occur with musical training appear to persist throughout a musician’s life. This works to protect the brain against the effects of aging by slowing cognitive decline, decreasing the risk of dementia and improving working memory and motor control.
And it’s never too late! Playing an instrument for just an hour a week can keep you brain active.