It is possible to retain mental sharpness through the years? Is there a way to maintain brain functions? Can music aid in the process?
Let’s take a closer look at how music can assist with retaining your mental sharpness.
The Benefits of Playing a Musical Instrument
It has long been held that learning and playing a musical instrument has many benefits for the mind. Here are just a few examples:
- It enhances your coordination.
- It betters your mathematical skills.
- It improves your listening skills.
- It increases the capacity of your memory.
However, some of the purported benefits of musical training may not be equal to what we once thought they were.
Does Music Make You Smarter?
Many experts and parents still believe that music lessons make people smarter. According to Diane Cole, who wrote an article entitled Your Aging Brain Will Be in Better Shape If You’ve Taken Music Lessons for National Geographic earlier this year, this isn’t necessarily the case.
Her assumptions are based on a couple of new randomized trials that found no difference between the IQs of preschoolers who took music classes (for several weeks) as opposed to those who did not.
Does this mean that music has no discernable benefit for one’s brain?
Far from it. In fact, IQ alone cannot be the measuring stick for becoming smarter, nor can it fully embody the many returns for learning to play music.
Music Lasts a Lifetime
Cole is pretty quick to point out other studies showing that children who participate in music lessons will experience some wonderful benefits in the long run, including defense against cognitive decline and memory loss.
Apparently, these benefits are not diminished if one stops playing an instrument later on, and even those in midlife can still pick up an instrument and enjoy the same rewards.
This is due to the fact that musical training can create neural connections, which are developed through motor control, breathing, as well as sight reading, and can last throughout one’s life.
However, it does appear that those who play for longer reap more of the benefits. Keeping with it for at least 10 years yields many positive results.
The Effect of Music on Your Brain
Learning an instrument definitely has an effect on one’s brain. Various studies show that:
- Musicians have a larger volume of white matter compared to non-musicians.
- Adult professional musicians have a larger volume of gray matter than non-musicians.
- Structural brain changes associated with motor and auditory improvements appear after 15 months of training in early childhood.
Playing music requires a wide range of brain regions and cognitive functions to work together, which builds more links between the right brain and the left brain.
Some studies may not have yielded the expected results, but that does not mean that learning to play an instrument can’t help you retain mental sharpness. In fact, a previous post further corroborates this fact.