We had suspected it for some time, a study has just confirmed that playing music does have an effect on the connections of the brain. Specifically, when a person begins to practice an instrument from an early age, their brain becomes “super connected” . We can thus observe a significant difference at the level of certain brain regions when the brain of a musician is compared with that of someone who is not a musician.
The study was conducted by experts from Stanford University School of Medicine and consisted of comparing the brains of 153 volunteers. Among the latter, there were professional musicians, non-musicians, but also musicians with perfect pitch. Perfect pitch is the ability to recognize the tone of a sound without using a reference.
The results clearly show that those who started learning music very early have stronger brain connections than those who didn't start until later. According to scientists, this discovery is one of the cases where a person's experience can shape their brain.
According to the researchers' explanations, regardless of the instrument chosen, musicians have much stronger structural and functional connections in their brains than non-musicians. Plus, these connections get even stronger over time.
Simon Leipold, the author of the study, said years of playing music dramatically affect the brain. The impact is all the more important as the period of practice is long.
Leipold added that these findings demonstrate that experience shapes the brain, especially near the beginning of life. They also show the extent to which musical abilities are represented in the brain.
What about perfect pitch?
During the study, the researchers also compared the brains of musicians with perfect pitch with those of those without. Apparently, the same conclusions regarding brain shaping also hold true for musicians with perfect pitch.
Leipold explains that they were surprised to see that there were no big differences between the brains of musicians in the two categories. However, perfect pitch could impact the brain in more subtle ways.
In any case, when the two categories of musicians were compared with the non-musicians, the scientists were able to observe that the brains of the two groups had a stronger functional connectivity, which corresponds to the synchronized activity of the regions of the brain. We are talking here about the auditory regions of the two hemispheres.
On the other hand, musicians also have stronger white matter connections between auditory regions and lobes that play a role in various types of high level processing.
So, seeing these results, it can be said that it would not be a bad thing to encourage children to practice an instrument. Although they will not necessarily become professional musicians, good brain connections will allow them to better deal with the various situations they will have to face in their lifetime.