Learning an instrument is fun, but do you get anything besides the ability to impress your friends at parties? The research is in, and it says ‘yes’.
Anita Collins and the animators at TED ED give an excellent explanation of the neuroscience of musical performance. Your brain is super-active when you’re listening to music, but when you perform it is engaged in a flurry of activity. It simultaneously engages the cortices of the brain responsible for movement, vision, and hearing. Musical performance also requires the precision of your brain’s left hemisphere and the creative energy of the right. As you play, the corpus callosum, the area which bridges the two hemispheres, is stimulated. Neuroscientists believe this leads to a faster exchange between your left and right brain, as well as the ability to form new connections between them.
In this way, playing music is a lot like giving your brain a full body workout. And just like hitting gym, engaging that powerful bundle of tissue inside your skull strengthens it overtime. Researchers believe musicians can apply their brainpower to other tasks in life, like communication and problem solving.
Some may wonder if the brain benefits the same way from sports or painting. Both activities have their mental benefits, but music seems to be unique for a full brain workout. The best part is, you don’t need to be a professional musician to get these benefits! Julia Roberts and Albert Einstein played— and you don’t associate either of them with the music industry. So dust out that cello… or kazoo. Get to playing!