Numerous studies show music’s positive effects on the brain. However, musicology professor Frank Gunderson explained these effects go far beyond simply making humans happy. Research proves that playing music enhances cognitive function.
“Many people know that music is good for the soul,” Gunderson said. “However, they don’t know how good it is for their overall wellbeing.”
Learning to play music, especially at a young age, can result in drastic brain changes. Brain scan studies show a correlation between the changes in a musician’s brain and when they learned to play music.
These studies showed that even short periods of learning to play music resulted in long-lasting or even lifelong benefits. A brief period of learning can improve the processing and understanding of speech sounds. It can also help prevent age-related hearing loss. Playing an instrument as a kid can help prevent dementia.
Research shows that playing music can help learning and speech processing in kids with dyslexia.
“Music can access areas of the brain where other learning methods can’t,” Frank Gunderson said. “Studies continue to show more and more benefits for kids, adults, and the elderly.”
Changes in Brain Structure
The brain structure of a musician and a non-musician is quite different. The corpus callosum is bulkier in a musician’s brain. The corpus callosum is the group of nerve fibers that link the two sides of the brain. A larger corpus callosum improves hearing, visuospatial skills, movement, and more.
“The functional and structural brain changes that occur are linked to how long musical training takes place” Frank Gunderson explained. “The longer a person trains, the more profound the changes become.”
Other Life-Changing Benefits
A study from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, showed that reading and music relate in how they affect the brain. They share common cognitive and neural mechanisms. Brain scans show that musical training improves literacy skills, spatial reasoning, and verbal memory.
Additionally, musicians can process numerous tasks or thoughts at once. Playing music requires hand-eye coordination, the ability to read music, and multi-sensory skills. Musicians must perform many actions at once to succeed, and this carries over to other aspects of life.
Professor of Musicology Frank Gunderson
Professor Gunderson teaches musicology at Florida State University. He holds a B.A. degree from Evergreen State College, an M.A. in World Music, and a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University (CT).
Gunderson is an expert in the field of musicology. His research and teachings include musical intersections with Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) and sonic repatriation, musical labor, and more. Frank Gunderson encourages individuals of all ages to consider picking up an instrument and learning to play. This simple task can lead to superior mental health for life.