The following is a guest article written by Alex Doman, CEO of Advanced Brain Technologies and author of the new book – Healing At The Speed Of Sound.
Musicians have bigger brains? The short answer is Yes. In recent years, due in large part to advances in functional brain imaging a new wave of research has revealed how sound shapes the brain. Let me touch on just a few of the findings.
Studies have shown that symphony orchestra musicians’ exhibit larger volumes of gray matter (neural cell bodies, dendrites and axons), in Broca’s area depending on how many years they have been playing an instrument. Broca’s area is believed to contribute to speech production and verbal working memory. Findings indicate that, while the region’s size typically decreases as people age, musicians continue to average fifteen percent more gray matter here even well into their sixties.
Musicians continue to average 15% more gray matter here even well into their sixties.
There was an interesting study published in The Journal of Neuroscience. Research conducted by Gottfried Schlaug at Harvard Medical School found structural differences in brain structures between musicians and non-musicians that may support those structural changes may be in response to training induced plasticity in the sensory-motor region.
A later study in The Neuroscientist suggests the potential for music making as an interactive treatment or intervention for neurological and developmental disorders, as well as those associated with normal aging. A small area known as Heschl’s gyrus, part of the auditory cortex was found to have 130% more gray matter in professional musicians compared to non-musicians. Even among amateur musicians this region was measurably larger. Recently Cerebral Cortex published a study by German researchers that found professional singers have increased functional activation in the primary somatosensory cortex, basal ganglia, thalamus and the cerebellum.
The Brain Has a Remarkable Capacity to Change in Response to the Environment
The brain has a remarkable capacity to change in response to the environment. And music playing and listening can bring about structural and behavioral changes. Numerous studies have established training-induced structural changes occur in the healthy adult human brain. Recently researchers have started investigating the role of musical training in early childhood. One study published in The Journal of Neuroscience demonstrates structural changes after only 15 months of musical training in early childhood, which were correlated with improvements in musically relevant motor and auditory skills.
Making Music is Good for Our Soul and We Now Know it Can Transform Our Brain
The body of evidence is encouraging… So sing and play musical instruments. Making music is good for our soul and we now know it can transform our brain. We recently brought a beautiful grand piano into our home and will enjoy growing our brains together as a family as we tickle the ivory. I wish we could take before and after fMRIs as case studies!
More information about this article and the effect that music and sound have on our brain can be found by reading Healing At The Speed Of Sound.