With watching and reading more books on the brain, neuroplasticity and how the brain relates to music I have learnt some very interesting things.
Whilst watching a very interesting and informative program called "The Brain with David Eagleman"; a 6-part documentary series shown on PBS; I have learnt that the brain does rebuild and re-wire itself. There was a case of a six year old girl who suffered seizures and fell to the floor, which resulted her being paralyzed for the duration of the seizure. They removed the half of her brain that caused the seizures and she grew into her teen years without any major repercussions. One side of her body was affected to the extent of her arm being weak and needing support, but her brain managed to 'rewire' itself and find new pathways to build on. The brain is a very interesting and majorly important part of us with discoveries of new research and possibilities we can not even fathom yet.
How music benefits us...
People who learn to play a musical instrument use more parts of the brain than anyone else, its kind of like an electrical storm, all the neurons firing at once. There are findings that the more advanced as a musician you become, the more you use and you activate both sides of the brain and not just the right side of the brain. Music really starts in the womb with the heart beat, that is where our draw to rhythm comes from, the need to want to be in unison with one another, to feel connected. You will notice babies and toddlers love to move to music, this is something instilled in us and from 6 months in the womb, babies can hear sounds.
Although listening to music fires up the brain as well as memories, smells, sounds and other senses that it links us to, playing an instrument encompasses even more of the brain. Listening to music uses the subcortical structures: cochlear nuclei, brain stem and cerebellum then moves to auditory cortices on both sides of your brain. When we listen to music, it involves the memory centers in the brain like parts of the frontal lobe and the hippocampus. When we take more of an active role when listening to music, i.e. clapping, tapping, movement, the cerebellum comes in to play. If we are able to read music, further parts of the brain are activated and needed: visual cortex, whilst listening or recalling lyrics involve the parts of our brain in charge of language in the temporal and frontal lobes. When performing music, your frontal lobe and motor and sensory cortex will also activate. Music requires coordination - motor control, as well as auditory information. As the brain has the capability to change and connect new pathways (known as neuroplasticity), music can affect learning capacity resulting in an increase of the size of the auditory and motor cortex.
So, what do we learn from this. Learning a musical instrument can really help you be smarter and fire up the brain. And I DO give music lessons.... just saying!
The Musical Brain - PBS
Alive Inside - Can be found on Netflix
The Brain with David Eagleman - PBS (6 part series)
Music and it's connection with the Brain absolutely fascinates me. As I am trying to move forward in my endeavours to volunteer and bring a group of musical volunteers to sing and use music as a part of therapy whilst bringing joy to people with Alzheimers, it has encouraged me to read various articles and papers on the matter. In the case of Alzheimers, music memory is the last part to go as it uses all parts of the brain. Music has influence in our everyday lives. Continued research and studies are discovering new ways music can be used as a tool to many things.
Here are some interesting articles and websites I have found: