Playing a musical instrument could improve cognitive skills

Playing a musical instrument changes the anatomy and function of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills.

There is growing evidence that musicians have structurally and functionally different brains compared to non-musicians. In particular, the areas of the brain used for processing music are larger or more active in musicians. Even just starting to learn a musical instrument can change the neuro-physiology (study of the working of nerve cells) of the brain. Lutz Jäncke, a member of the website Faculty of 1000 Medicine, proposes using music in neuropsychological therapy, for example to improve language skills, memory, or mood.

In a review report, Jäncke summarises recent studies of professional musicians.

The brain regions involved in music processing are also required for other tasks, such as memory or language skills, says a Faculty of 1000 release.

“If music has such a strong influence on brain plasticity (flexibility),” writes Jäncke, “this raises the question of whether this effect can be used to enhance cognitive performance.”

Several studies indeed show that musical practice increases memory and language sills, and Jäncke suggests expanding this field.

“Hopefully, the current trend in the use of musicians as a model for brain plasticity will continue... and extend to the field of neuropsychological rehabilitation,” he says.

Faculty of 1000 Medicine is a website for scientists that provides rankings and commentary on current scientific research papers. These findings have been published online in the Faculty of 1000 Biology Reports.

More In: Medicine | Health