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Playing Music Benefits The Brain More Than Any Other Activity

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“Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.”

Research suggests that regularly playing an instrument changes the shape and power of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills.

It can even increase IQ by seven points in both children and adults, according to researchers.

Experts said there is growing evidence that musicians have structurally and functionally different brains compared with non-musicians – in particular, the areas of the brain used in processing and playing music.

These parts of the brain that control motor skills, hearing, storing audio information and memory become larger and more active when a person learns how to play an instrument and can apparently improve day to day actions such as being alert, planning and emotional perception.

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This short animation from TED-Ed, written by Anita Collins and animated by Sharon Colman Graham, explains why playing music benefits the brain more than any other activity.

“Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout… Playing an instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once — especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. And, as in any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brain functions, allowing us to apply that strength to other activities… Playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain’s corpus callosum — the bridge between the two hemispheres — allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. This may allow musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively, in both academic and social settings.

Because making music also involves crafting and understanding its emotional content and message, musicians also have higher levels of executive function — a category of interlinked tasks that includes planning, strategizing, and attention to detail, and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects.

This ability also has an impact on how our memory systems work. And, indeed, musicians exhibit enhanced memory functions — creating, storing, and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently. Studies have found that musicians appear to use their highly connected brains to give each memory multiple tags, such as a conceptual tag, an emotional tag, an audio tag, and a contextual tag — like a good internet search engine.”

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