Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Playing an Instrument Helps Tune the Brain

"A new study from Northwestern University in Evanston says lifelong playing of musical instruments has a positive impact on the brain.

'Our neural timing slows as we age; we knew that,' said Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern and principal investigator of its Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory. 'Hearing what your spouse says when you're in a noisy restaurant, for example, is harder when you're older. But this study shows that musicians are faster at processing noise than non-musicians are. This shows us there is a biological impact of musical training.'

It makes sense, said Kraus.

'A musician has to be constantly picking out sounds from others,' she said. 'Just as we lift weights to build our biceps, playing music makes our nervous systems more efficient.'

The study included 87 participants—younger (18 to 32) and older (45 to 65), musicians and nonmusicians. The musicians were not all professional, but they played their instruments at least three times a week into adulthood...

In the study's chart that compares sound to neural responses among musicians, the two wavy lines are in sync. But the nonmusicians' chart looks like confetti (the neural responses) thrown at a wavy line (the sounds the participants heard).

The study is affecting education policymaking, said Kraus.

'We've been pleased to hear from educators who have used our website to argue for funding for continuation of musical education,' she said. 'We're giving them biological evidence that, yes, continued musical education matters.'"

South Florida Sun-Sentinel 03/28/2012