The Connection Between Making Music, the Brain and Longevity

Both listening to music and playing an instrument has beneficial effects on enhancing cognition and promoting longevity!

Below we will discuss how making music affects the brain as well as how it works to extend our lifespans.

Anita Collins - TEDx - How playing an instrument benefits your brain

1. Making Music Increases The Size of Your Brain
That’s right – music increases the size of your brain when you’re the one making it!

In a study carried out between professional musicians, amateur musicians, and non-musicians, scientists went ahead and investigated the sizes of their brains[1]Brain Structures Differ between Musicians and Non-Musicians.

It turns out that the professional musicians had increased gray matter in their brains, followed by the amateur musicians. Gray matter is where the neurons in your brain are and having more of it means that your brain is capable of processing more information.

The gray matter increases were reported to be in the auditory, visual, motor and spatial areas of the brain, just as the video above elucidates upon.

2. Enhanced Cognition
When looking at the differences in children who play a musical instrument and those who didn’t, enhanced cognition is clear[2]Effects of Music Training on the Child’s Brain and Cognitive Development.

Kids who played an instrument were on average better at mathematics and learning languages. This is due to the fact making music stimulates the spatial center of the brain, which seems to be linked to proficiency in mathematics.

Singing appears to enhance language capacity more than any other instrument as one spends more time using the parts of the brain required for speech. Neurologically speaking, there is hardly a difference between singing and talking.

Aside from benefiting the youth, creating music is also of great benefit to the elderly.

Further research shows that playing an instrument for 10 years or more will increase cognition in the elderly and protects against cognitive decline[3]The relation between instrumental musical activity and cognitive aging..

3. Improved Neuroplasticity
Through the intense workout the brain receives from coordinating multiple areas when playing an instrument, neuroplasticity is enhanced[4]Music Making as a Tool for Promoting Brain Plasticity across the Life Span.

The neurons in the brain have to remain very adaptive to make way for one to learn new music on their instrument. This increased neuroplasticity will enhance your lifespan and keep your brain younger and more flexible to learning new information!

4. Protects Against Neurological Disorders
Seeing as making music promotes neuroplasticity and enhances cognition, it’s not surprising that those with neurological disorders will benefit[5]The Therapeutic Effects of Singing in Neurological Disorders.

Multiple research has shown how playing an instrument will help those who suffer from Parkinson’s, Autism, brain lesions and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Another interesting benefit of making music is that singing will help to reverse stuttering and other similar speech-impediments!

5. Music Enhances Memory
As mentioned in the above video, music improved the memory of musicians by allowing them to store more “tags” when storing information in their brains.

Other research into enhancing memory has given us insight into how the brain stores information. If there are more sensory inputs such as sound, color, light, touch, smell and so on, a memory becomes stronger and more easy to access.

In the case of musicians, the ability to associate an auditory or visual stimulus with a memory becomes increased, thus improving the way they remember information.

Other Ways Music Lengthens Life Span
An interesting study sheds light on how playing an instrument or listening to music does more than just make us smarter…

1. Improved Cardiovascular Health
Listening to classical or relaxing meditation music was shown to improve risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease[6]The effects of music on the cardiovascular system and cardiovascular health!

The paper goes on to say that different types of music either increase or decrease blood flow to the brain and heart. Rock and heavy metal music appears to be highly destructive in this regard and may have dangerous effects for those with cardiovascular disease.

Playing relaxing music or listening to it will help you to live longer and improve your heart health!

2. Better Respiratory Function
In the same paper quoted above, even respiratory function was improved by listening to classical music.

Perhaps the medicine of the future will include listening to music to help calm those with asthma attacks and more!

It is thought that this had to do with lower levels of cortisol in people who listened to relaxing music. Cortisol is a hormone used in the production of stress or fear in the body.

Naturally, having lower levels of stress will increase your lifespan too!

Learn a Musical Instrument To Get Smarter and Live Longer
Now that you know how music can help you increase your intelligence and live longer, the question that remains is: “which musical instrument should I play?”

The piano was shown not only to boost gray matter in the brain but enhance white matter integrity. This means that more fluid connections and processes are made in the brain of pianists than non-pianists[7]Gray matter density and white matter integrity in pianists’ brain: A combined structural and diffusion tensor MRI study.

Playing the violin, on the other hand, is on par with why Einstein was so intelligent!

The motor coordination of learning a string instrument helps with spatial intelligence and mathematics.

If learning a physical instrument appears too intimidating, then consider learning how to use the instrument we all have: the human voice.

Singing will help not only to improve mental cognition, but it will make you better with learning and applying linguistic skills.

Listening to classical music will also help.

Especially Mozart has been known to relax all those who listen to his music, having beneficial effects on our health and well-being.

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