Why the Musicians Brain is so Unique...

Courtesy of Max Monahan

Science has proven that the average brain of a musician has considerable differences when compared the brain of an individual that doesn't play music! 

...and despite what your extended family says, the differences are all very positive! 

Playing and listening to music exercises many parts of the brain that we use every day including; motor skills, visual processing, auditory processing, and emotional capacity. Read on to learn about all of the ways that music helps your brain stay in shape.

Early development
Music stimulates and exercises the brain. Modern neuroscience has been able to monitor brain activity in real time and has detected the myriad of activity that transpires when a musicians play their instruments. This activity builds up connections between neurotransmitters necessary for all kinds of functions. While this activity is effective at any age, studies have shown that the earlier a child starts playing music, the better.

So much is happening in the mind of a developing young child. For example, between the ages of two and nine is the time when a child breaks through with language. A mind stimulated with music during this time will have a better grasp of language, which will give kids the tools to more clearly articulate their ideas, reach their potential, and guide them to a more successful life.

Become Fully Engaged in Music
Different findings have offered differing opinions on the matter, but some studies aim to debunk the myth that just listening to music will develop a child's brain. They state that if a child sits in a music class like they're watching paint dry, nothing is going to happen. For results to be seen, the youth must be engaged by reading, playing, and putting effort into understanding the music.

Other researches claim that listening to music is better then not listening at all, which is absolutely true. Still, it's understandable where this argument comes from, as it's difficult for science to quantify just how, "hard," someone is listening, and the results from actually playing music are consistently seen in the brain on a much larger scale.

What's happening in the brain
The reason why it's undeniable how playing music has such a significant impact over just listening, or not playing at all, is because playing music involves virtually every part of the brain at once. It involves the parts responsible for auditory, visual, and motor functionality. Another vivid picture of just how stimulating music can be on the brain is how it works the left and right hemispheres in perfect harmony (hah). By uniting the functions of our analytic brain with our creative brain, we maximize its efficiency.

The deep-rooted benefits of music on our brain don't stop there. By analyzing all the intricacies of a piece of music, such as its artistic qualities, emotional content, and message, music ends up working even more brain functions. This means that the musical brain ends up displaying superiority in complex functions including but not limited to socially oriented, executive, and analytic functions.

Superior Capacity for Memory
Musicians show a superior capacity to store memories. With heightened aptitudes for all these aspects of life, musicians are able to attach vivid sensory tags to their memories involving emotion, context, sounds, or just the concept of the memory. This drastically heightens the learning curve for the musically impacted brain.

If we want to get into the real nitty-gritty of these happenings, it all comes down to increases in grey matter seen in those who have studied music. This correlates to the size and area of the nerve cells in the cerebral cortex. Basically, it's all about connections, just like the music industry! The more connections you build, the more things happen, the more you end up getting done.

So are you a genius because you play the drums, or have you only been able to get by because fate handed you a trumpet in the fourth grade? Whatever relationship with music may be, it will do nothing but benefit your cerebral health, so keep it up.

Max Monahan is a bassist and a writer living in Los Angeles. He spends his time working for an audio licensing website and shredding sweet bass riffs.