Thursday, May 6, 2010

Playing music is very good for you

Here is a gorgeous photo of my friend Mariette’s son, Leon, aged three, playing music with his Dad, Onno, at their home in Amsterdam. Mariette tells me Leon’s been playing, with great delight and without pressure, since he was one. She says he was drawn to the instrument from this early age, and even slept with his tiny violin in his bed!

A nurturing and rich cultural environment like the one Mariette and Onno offer their children is excellent for a young child. Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of our brain to adapt and reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Research shows conclusively that learning and playing music is of extraordinary benefit to developing minds. Studies by Taub and others (1995) of musicians who play stringed instruments have shown that the more these musicians practice and play, the larger the brain maps for their active left hands become. Brain imaging shows that musicians have several areas of their brains – including the motor cortex and the cerebellum – that are different from those of non-musicians. Imaging studies (by Pantev et al, 2001) also show that musicians who begin playing before the age of seven have larger brain areas connecting the two hemispheres. Increased and improved language skills are also related to the playing of music.

For more on this fascinating topic, I recommend the books “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Dr Norman Doidge; and “Musicophilia” by Dr Oliver Sacks.

For now, though, I’d like to add that playing music not only makes you smarter, it can make you happier. I’m sure Leon already knows that, though...

P.S: Go on, click on the photo to enlarge ... You *know* you want to see that gorgeous impish smile ... those merry eyes... You know you do! :-)

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