College of DuPage Nursing Student Quimco shared that learning a musical instrument can bring multiple benefits to a person, no matter what age they begin. Be it a wood or a string instrument, it can bring such benefits as improved motor and cognitive function and increased brain plasticity. It may seem daunting to begin to learn an instrument as an adult but with the right determination, anyone can learn to play.
Playing an instrument offers a fun, multisensory experience and demands motor skills to achieve a specific note in the music. It may be challenging when first beginning but helps develop reaction time and eye to hand coordination. A study by MacRitchie (2019) conducted in novice adult musicians showed improvement in manual dexterity after learning a musical instrument. Aging over time decreases reflexes but playing a musical instrument helps train the body to react more quickly and delays the natural aging process.
Not only does playing an instrument improve dexterity, but it also improves the executive functioning of the brain. Executive functions of the brain include attention, working memory, planning and organizing, and impulse control. Musical training can improve all these aspects of cognition in the frontal cortex of the brain. Music training has also shown to improve verbal memory, mathematical skills, and IQ (Bowmer, 2018).
What is brain plasticity and why is it important? Brain plasticity refers to the ability of the brain to change and adapt. Recent research by Schlaug (2015) demonstrated that musical training improves brain plasticity which is important because, without it, the brain would not be able to develop and change from childhood to adulthood. With all the different stimuli from music, ranging from auditory senses to physically playing a musical instrument, the brain adapts, undergoing continuous modifications. These changes have been found in the white-matter tracts in the corpus callosum (Reybrouck, 2018).
To begin playing an instrument, a first step is to have an actual instrument. Although it is a fact that many have thought of playing an instrument or attempted to learn an instrument on at least one occasion not many know how to begin or where to start. Purchasing an instrument outright is not necessary, as music shops offer rental of other options as well as lessons, along with contact information for private teachers who offer lessons at affordable prices. Picking up an instrument can be intimidating at first but can soon become a rewarding journey with the right mindset.
Bowmer, A. (2018, November 13). Investigating the Impact of a Musical Intervention on Preschool Children’s Executive Function. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02389/full.
MacRitchie, J. (2019, December 3). Cognitive, Motor and Social Factors of Music Instrument Training Programs for Older Adults’ Improved Wellbeing. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02868/full.
Reybrouck, M. (2018, June 6). Music and Brain Plasticity: How Sounds Trigger Neurogenerative Adaptations. IntechOpen. https://www.intechopen.com/books/neuroplasticity-insights-of-neural-reorganization/music-and-brain-plasticity-how-sounds-trigger-neurogenerative-adaptations.
Schlaug, G. (2015, February 10). Musicians and music making as a model for the study of brain plasticity. Progress in Brain Research. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079612314000211?via%3Dihub.
Seinfeld, S. (2013, October 13). Effects of music learning and piano practice on cognitive function, mood and quality of life in older adults. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00810/full.