your musical brain

Many of us know the benefits of listening to musicMusic carries us through life. We have numerous moments that are marked by the music we listen to during those times. We become nostalgic when we re-hear a song we heard that we were listening to at a specifically important moment in our past. We become ecstatic with music, and sometimes, we become quite sad. It is an artistic medium that can touch us very deeply. When we hear music, various different parts of the brain become activated simply because of all of the associations we make when we hear it. We think of specific people, specific smells, we create imagery in our head, and we even imagine those details as present with us, right now. Even further more, we can imagine those details and people in alternative settings. This is why the brain is so active when we are listening to music. Now imagine not just listening to music, but also playing it. Doing so, not only activates numerous parts of our brain, but it also puts the brain on a highly effective mental exercise regiment. Considering everything that a musician has to take into account when playing an instrument, we can see that everything requires careful attention and care. From counting the rhythm, and doing some simple math, to emotional presence and expression of depth, the brain is working creatively, consciously, and systematically. This is a wonderful gift to the brain since it is one of the few activities one can do to really experience what psychologists have called “flow”. Flow is the feeling of complete presence in the moment without actually being aware of time, meaning, one is so in tune with what they are doing that no irrelevant thoughts intrude and make the individual wonder about the past or the future. It is the state of complete presence with a great degree of contentness. Playing music also has benefits for stimulation of memory. There have been case studies of individuals who have lost their memory, either to diseases such as Alzheimer’s or accidents such as severe concussion, and as soon as music is played for them they remember particular details about themselves. If these individuals were musicians themselves, they may not even remember they used to play in the past, but as soon as they are given the opportunity to interact with their instrument, they are able to play almost flawlessly (Clive Wearing). These are fascinating facts about music and its undeniably important role in our lives, and most especially, in the agility of our brains.

It is also never too late to start. Sure it is true that starting younger means one can excel faster but if one is willing to practice a bit more and for a few years longer than a child may need to, the benefits are still the same and the brain will indeed be happy.