Accordion Articles - Researchers find Active Music Making Expands the Brain


Written by: Harley Jones
Publication: General
Date written: September 1998

In the April 23, 1998 issue of Nature, Researchers at the University of Munster in Germany reported their discovery that music lessons in childhood actually enlarge the brain. An area used to analyse the pitch of a musical note is enlarged 25% in musicians, compared to people who have never played an instrument. The findings suggest the area is enlarged through practice and experience. The younger the musicians were when they started musical training, the bigger this area of the brain appears to be.

Research at the University of Munster shows each activity of the human brain, for example reading, leads to minute changes of the magnetic field in the brain. These fluctuations can be measured and give an insight of the activity in the brain.

The research areas are very wide, ranging from studies of epilepsy to the study of the functional organisation of the auditory cortex. It was thought for two centuries that nerve connections were formed before birth or in very early childhood but not in later life. This study disproved this theory and it gives an example of what fundamental values can be made with the help of neuro-magnetic studies.

"The discovery, described in the April 23 issue of the journal Nature, was made after scientists put musicians and others into a magnetic brain imaging machine pointed at the auditory cortex, where sounds are processed. This part of the brain contains cells, called neurons, which are sensitive to different sound frequencies. Neurons that fire in response to the same frequency tend to cluster into little islands, forming a kind of sound frequency map in the auditory cortex."

"The researchers said that skilled musicians use more neurons for processing sounds from a piano or better synchronise those sounds because of their training. Furthermore, the younger the musicians started playing their instruments, the greater their response to piano notes. Musicians with perfect pitch or absolute pitch showed no differences. The increased response to piano tones was the same in those who played piano, woodwinds, or string instruments, although most said they had received early training on the piano."

As we mentioned before we are about to see an avalanche of information which will go on to show the incredible impact music making has on the overall development of human beings OF ALL AGES.

This is just one more important piece of the puzzle!


Nature, New York Times, University of Munster
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