Physical Brain Changes
The benefits of music for academic learning are well documented, thanks to research tracking young people’s progress as they learn an instrument. Evidence is also mounting that studying music leads to actual physical changes in one’s brain development. Significantly, the amount of activity in certain regions of the brain, as well as the structure of specific areas, is altered by learning and playing music.
One study at the University of Munster in Germany monitored the brain activityof two groups of people between 20 and 30 years of age. One group consisted of 20musicians who had played music for at least 15 years. The other group consistedof 13 non-musicians. Each participant listened to a recording of piano music as the researchers monitored their brain responses. While listening to the recording, the musicians showed 25% more activity in the area of the brain that processes auditory signals.Although the music was from a piano, the response level was higher for all musicians, whether they played the piano, violin, or another instrument.
A separate study at McMaster University in Canada followed the progress of 12 children for a year. Six of the children were taught music using the Suzuki method, a popular teaching method from Japan. The other six did not learn an instrument. Over the course of the study, the researchers took regular measurements of certain brain regions. They found that the music students had increased activity in the region of the brain responsible for focusing attention and making sense of different sounds.