Benefits of Music Lessons

Childhood music lessons can sometimes leave painful memories, but they seem to carry benefits into adulthood. A new study reports that older adults who took lessons at a young age can process the sounds of speech faster than those who did not.

 

“It didn’t matter what instrument you played, it just mattered that you played,” said Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University and an author of the study, which appears in The Journal of Neuroscience.

She and her collaborators looked at 44 healthy adults ages 55 to 76, measuring electrical activity in a region of the brain that processes sound.

She and her collaborators looked at 44 healthy adults ages 55 to 76, measuring electrical activity in a region of the brain that processes sound.

 

They found that participants who had four to 14 years of musical training had faster responses to speech sounds than participants without any training — even though no one in the first group had played an instrument for about 40 years.

Dr. Kraus said the study underscored the need for a good musical education. “Our general thinking about education is that it is for our children,” she said. “But in fact we are setting up our children for healthy aging based on what we are able to provide them with now.”

Other studies have suggested that lifelong musical training also has a positive effect on the brain, she added. Dr. Kraus herself plays the electric guitar, the piano and the drums — “not well but with great enthusiasm,” she said. 

                                                      - NY Times (Nov. 12, 2013)

Twelve Benefits of Music Education

 

1. Early musical training helps develop brain areas involved in language and reasoning. It is thought that brain development continues for many years after birth. Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain's circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds.

2. There is also a causal link between music and spatial intelligence (the ability to perceive the world accurately and to form mental pictures of things). This kind of intelligence, by which one can visualize various elements that should go together, is critical to the sort of thinking necessary for everything from solving advanced mathematics problems to being able to pack a book-bag with everything that will be needed for the day.

3. Students of the arts learn to think creatively and to solve problems by imagining various solutions, rejecting outdated rules and assumptions. Questions about the arts do not have only one right answer.

4. Recent studies show that students who study the arts are more successful on standardized tests such as the SAT. They also achieve higher grades in high school.

5. A study of the arts provides children with an internal glimpse of other cultures and teaches them to be empathetic towards the people of these cultures. This development of compassion and empathy, as opposed to development of greed and a "me first" attitude, provides a bridge across cultural chasms that leads to respect of other races at an early age.

6. Students of music learn craftsmanship as they study how details are put together painstakingly and what constitutes good, as opposed to mediocre, work. These standards, when applied to a student's own work, demand a new level of excellence and require students to stretch their inner resources.

7. In music, a mistake is a mistake; the instrument is in tune or not, the notes are well played or not, the entrance is made or not. It is only by much hard work that a successful performance is possible. Through music study, students learn the value of sustained effort to achieve excellence and the concrete rewards of hard work.

8. Music study enhances teamwork skills and discipline. In order for an orchestra to sound good, all players must work together harmoniously towards a single goal, the performance, and must commit to learning music, attending rehearsals, and practicing.

9. Music provides children with a means of self-expression. Now that there is relative security in the basics of existence, the challenge is to make life meaningful and to reach for a higher stage of development. Everyone needs to be in touch at some time in his life with his core, with what he is and what he feels. Self-esteem is a by-product of this self-expression.

10. Music study develops skills that are necessary in the workplace. It focuses on "doing," as opposed to observing, and teaches students how to perform, literally, anywhere in the world. Employers are looking for multi-dimensional workers with the sort of flexible and supple intellects that music education helps to create as described above. In the music classroom, students can also learn to better communicate and cooperate with one another.

11. Music performance teaches young people to conquer fear and to take risks. A little anxiety is a good thing, and something that will occur often in life. Dealing with it early and often makes it less of a problem later. Risk-taking is essential if a child is to fully develop his or her potential.

12. An arts education exposes children to the incomparable.

 

Carolyn Phillips is the author of the Twelve Benefits of Music Education. She is the Former Executive Director of the Norwalk Youth Symphony, CT.

 

Musicians spot mistakes more

quickly and more accurately

than non-musicians

 

New research shows the cognitive benefits of even a small amount of musical activity

 

New research has shown that individuals who play an instrument are more capable at identifying errors and correcting mistakes, and that these benefits apply to amateur musicians as well as professionals.

 

The study, led by Dr Ines Jentzsch for the University of St Andrews, tested the cognitive abilities of musicians and non-musicians, with the research concluding that learning an instrument could “slow or even prevent”  the mental decline associated with aging.

The research, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, draws particular attention to the skills learnt in musical performance. When playing pieces to an audience or to themselves musicians must demonstrate heightened awareness of their actions: continually monitoring their playing through auditory feedback and rapidly adjusting their movements to anticipate possible mistakes.

 

The psychological and mental benefits of learning to play an instrument have been shown in previous studies, with research highlighting musicians’ improved reaction times and their increased capacity to “inhibit task irrelevant information” (aka, to stay focused).

 

“[The results] suggest that higher levels of musical training might result in more efficient information processing in general (indicated by faster overall speed across tasks without accuracy tradeoff), and confirms earlier reports indicating a positive link between mental speed and musical ability,” says Dr Jentzsch.

 

The research is notable in that unlike previous studies it focuses on amateur rather than professional musicians, showing that even “moderate levels of musical activity” were beneficial to cognitive performance.

 

The study also drew attention to the diminishing support for children to learn to play in schools, noting that “in times of economic hardship, funds for music education are often amongst the first to be cut.”

 

“This is particularly worrying given both anecdotal and limited research evidence suggesting that music can have strong positive effects on our physical as well as psychological functioning.”

 

                                                    - The Independent (Jan. 4, 2014)

Science Shows How Guitar Players' Brains Are Actually Different from Everybody Elses'

 

Whether it's playing "Stairway to Heaven" until your fingers bleed or always finding yourself in the center of a group of people intent on singing "Wagon Wheel," some things are common to all guitarists. Including, as it turns out, their brain chemistry.

 

For starters, guitarists literally have the ability to synchronize their brains while playing. In a 2012 study in Berlin, researchers had 12 pairs of guitarists play the same piece of music while having their brains scanned. They discovered that the guitarists' neural networks would synchronize not only during the piece, but even slightly before playing. So, basically, guitarists can read each others' minds better than they can read music.

 

That synch happens in the areas of the brain that deal with music production and social cognition, so it makes a real difference in how tight a band sounds. When people talk about a band's chemistry, this may well be what they're seeing. It also explains why brothers are the core duo in so many famous rock bands.

 

But part of this ability to synchronize actually comes from one overarching truth about guitarists: they're more intuitive than most.

 

It sounds weird to solo while hooked up to a scanning machine, but a few brave guitarists pulled it off and contributed a major finding to the science of guitars. Researchers found that, when a guitarist shreds, he or she temporarily deactivates the brain region that routinely shuts down when achieving big-picture goals, signalling a shift from conscious to unconscious thought.

 

And when mere mortals (non-musicians) attempt a solo, the conscious portion of their brain stays on, which indicates that real guitarists are able to switch to this more creative and less practical mode of thinking more easily.

 

All of the research makes it clear that guitarists are just super spiritual, intuitive people. Think about anyone from the Jimmy Page to the Edge right on up to Bon Iver. That sort of intuitive thinking runs all the way to how they learn. Unlike musicians who learn through sheet music, guitarists, according to researchers at Vanderbilt University, get a better grasp of a song by looking at someone playing it rather than reading the notes on paper.

 

The intuition might come from one truth every guitarist knows: playing guitar transcends basic brain chemistry. In a famous incident, Pat Martino, a renowned jazz guitarist from Philadelphia, had 70% of his left temporal lobe removed in his mid-30s due to a hemorrhage. When he came out of surgery, he couldn't play any longer.

 

But guitar-playing is about more than any one part of your brain. Within two years, Martino was able to completely relearn how to play the jazz guitar. Scientists everywhere have used his brain as an amazing example of cerebral plasticity. For guitarists, he represents something else — playing guitar isn't a skill. It's a way of being.

 

http://www.policymic.com/articles/88357/science-shows-how-guitar-players-brains-are-actually-different-from-everybody-elses

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