Will music make you smarter?

Part 3

 

Music Study & Brain Development

For Increased Brain Growth, Just Add Music?

 Part 3 - continued

In 1994 Discover magazine published an article which discussed research by Gottfried Schlaug, Herman Steinmetz and their colleagues at the University of Dusseldorf. The group compared magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brains of 27 classically trained right-handed male piano or string players, with those of 27 right-handed male non-musicians.

Intriguingly, they found that in the musicians' planum temporale - a brain structure associated with auditory processing - was bigger in the left hemisphere and smaller in the right than in the non-musicians. The musicians also had a thicker nerve-fiber tract between the hemisphere. The differences were especially striking among musicians who began training before the age of seven.

According to Shlaug, music study also promotes growth of the corpus callosum, a sort of bridge between the two hemispheres of the brain. He found that among musicians who started their training before the age of seven, the corpus callosum is 10-15% thicker than in non-musicians.

At the time, Schlaug and other researchers speculated that a larger corpus callosum might improve motor control by speeding up communication between the hemispheres.

Since then, a study by Dartmouth music psychologist Petr Janata published by Science in 2002, has confirmed that music prompts greater connectivity between the brains left and right hemisphere and between the areas responsible for emotion and memory, than does almost any other stimulus.

Janata led a team of scientists who reported some areas of the brain are 5% larger in expert musicians than they are in people with little or no musical training, and that the auditory cortex in professional musicians is 130% denser than in non-musicians. In fact, among musicians who began their musical studies in early childhood, the corpus callosum, a four-inch bundle of nerve fibers connecting the left and right sides of the brain, can be up to 15% larger.

While it is now clear from research studies that brain region connectivity and some types of spatial reasoning functionality is improved by music training, there is growing evidence that detailed and skilled motor movements are also enhanced.

Apparently the corpus callosum in musicians is essential for tasks such as finger coordination. Like a weight-lifter's biceps, this portion of the brain enlarges to accommodate the increased labour assigned to it.

Will music make you smarter? - Part 1 
Will music make you smarter? - Part 2
Will music make you smarter? - Part 3
Will music make you smarter? - Part 4

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