Like your muscles, your brain gets stronger as you exercise it. The process of changing the brain through our experiences is called neural plasticity—the capacity of the nervous system to modify itself in response to experience or deprivation.
Wednesday, August 26th
Scientists measure neural plasticity with special brain-imaging techniques, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or electroencephalogram (EEG), to find precisely how playing music changes our brain works. Research with these machines, as well as studying the brains of people who have died, shows that auditory (hearing), visual (sight), and motor (movement) areas of the brain are specialized in expert musicians. The specialization includes the increased size of each brain area and how each area functions. Science tells us that music is so much more than just a source of entertainment; it is an essential part of our life learning. Here are some of the important things that happen in the brain when we play music:
Auditory: The auditory system processes sound more effectively after musical training. People can detect smaller differences in frequency (the number of sound waves per second), making speech and music easier to hear.
Motor: Brain areas that control instrument-related muscles and body parts (such as the fingers, the mouth, etc.) grow in size. More neurons in the brain are devoted to fine-tuning muscle movement in these areas.
Reading: Studies show that better musical ability is related to higher reading scores, suggesting a link between how well we hear speech and how well we can map speech sounds to letters.
Socio-emotional awareness: Playing music together can enhance socio-emotional awareness, which is the ability to identify, manage, and express emotions constructively. An excellent example is that very young children are more likely to interact positively with people they play music with.
This article is a re-post, with minor modifications, of “Music and Learning: Does Music Make You Smarter?,” published on kids.frontiersin.org