I would argue that it isn’t possible to find a man who isn’t moved by a particular song or a melody. Like storytelling, composing music is a universal human trait, shared across all cultures for many millennia. It has a unique effect on the brain, inducing powerful signals. A new study in PLOS ONE states that music, if we make it our profession, actually changes the circuitry of our brains.
Previous research indicates that the tissue that is a bridge between our left and right hemispheres of the brain is larger in musicians’. Could it be possible that music has the power to make the communication between the two hemispheres better?
In order to see if musicians’ hemispheric connection is really better than non-musicians’, researchers from Finland used fMRI scanners to review the brains of two groups of people: the members of the first were all professional, practicing musicians with degrees in music; the second group were people who had never played a musical instrument professionally or otherwise.
After they were positioned in the fMRI scanners, the subjects were exposed to three very different genres: classical Stravinsky, Argentinian tango and progressive rock. The researchers were looking for differences in the neurological activity in both halves of the brain; as imagined, the patterns of activity in the musicians’ left and right hemispheres was more symmetrical than that of non-musicians.
The group of musicians included cellists, violinists, keyboard players, bassoonists and trombone players. Intriguingly, the brains of the keyboard players had the most symmetrical neurological display of the study. The researchers suggest that the level of neurological symmetry the musicians have is linked to the kinematic symmetry – that is the symmetry that a musician needs to play their specific instrument. “Keyboard players have a more mirrored use of both hands and fingers when playing,” says Iballa Burunat, the lead author of the study; therefore, the synaptic symmetry they have is more likely to be better than the one of a stringed instruments player.
This study only tested the effect that listening to music, as opposed to actually playing it on an instrument, had on the human brain. The aquired results suggest that musicians who practice genuinely have a rewired brain, one that communicates better than most even after they’ve stopped playing their instruments.