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How Music Lessons Help Our Brains And Reaction Times As We Age

brain and music

You may not be familiar with the corpus callosum.

It is a bundle of nerve fibers that connects the left and right sides of the brain. Recent studies have shown that the bundle is significantly larger in musicians than in non-musicians. This difference in brain structure can account for noted advantages musicians have — specifically, improvements in reaction times.

Music Lessons Create Bigger Brains?

What is it about studying music that causes the corpus callosum to grow? People who play piano and keyboard instruments for a living appear to have added growth in the brain areas that control hearing, movement, and visuospatial abilities as well.

Is it the coordination between fingers, ears, and eyes? Does this practice build up those nerve fibers across the brain’s hemispheres?

Is it the way music students must integrate information they take in through different senses to produce results? Does this change the shape and structure of the brain?

A University of Montreal study has provided data on all of these findings. Musical training can alter brain structure, and enhance mental functions. This includes long-term memory.

Lead researcher Simon Landry explains that music lessons may be especially helpful for people advancing into old age. As people age, their reaction times get slower. Since playing a musical instrument is proven to speed up reaction times, studying an instrument can help older people keep their reflexes and reactions quick.

An article in the business magazine Inc. explores the research behind the study. It also discusses the “brain games” industry, and the $2 million fine levied against Lumosity for making false claims about mental improvement. These brain games may not improve mental functioning, but music lessons certainly do — and provably so.