If you’re interested in strengthening your brain, playing a musical instrument is the best exercise you can do to improve brain function, make you happier and protect against dementia.
Learning to play an instrument actually changes brain structure and improves functioning better than any so-called brain games. Those who learn to play when they are young also have better long-term memory and brain development.
A study completed by researchers at the University of Montreal found musicians tend toward more mental alertness over those who don’t play.
Head researcher Simon Landry said,
The more we know about the impact of music on really basic sensory processes, the more we can apply musical training to individuals who might have slower reaction times. As people get older, for example, we know their reaction times get slower. So if we know that playing a musical instrument increases reaction times, then maybe playing an instrument will be helpful for them.
Previous to this study, Landry discovered musicians have faster auditory, tactile, and audio-tactile reaction times, and an altered statistical use of multisensory information.
In other words, playing an instrument is a complex and emotional task requiring multiple senses, inputs and fine motor skills. This is what changes the brain and can also help musicians be successful in other fields, like business.
Scans of brains actually show physical differences between musicians and non-musicians. The huge bundle of nerves connecting the two sides of the brain, or the corpus callosum, is larger in the brains of musicians.
Learning an instrument at a young age leads to the biggest brain differences. Even if someone doesn’t dedicate the rest of their lives to an instrument, there are still drastic changes caused by even moderate or intermittent study. That’s because music instruction makes these changes in the brain more efficiently than any other activity (that we know of).
From strengthening speech processing to protecting against dementia, learning to play an instrument is like lifting weights for your brain. So forget the dumb brain games on your phone. Pick up guitar or find a piano teacher.
Your brain will thank you.