It seems incredible that something as enjoyable as music could increase your ability to learn, improve your memory and make your brain work better — but it’s true. Thousands of studies show the connection between music and the brain. The human brain responds to rhythm, melody and patterns; whether listening or playing, music increases and improves the brain’s neural pathways.
In one study, college students who listened to 15 minutes of Mozart before taking an IQ test scored eight to nine points higher than students who listened to either slow relaxation music or no music. Three different IQ spatial reasoning tasks requiring mental imaging of objects in space were given. The average score of those who listened to Mozart was 119, while the average score of those who listened to relaxation music was 111, and those who had no music averaged 110. This effect was not permanent and did not enhance long-term memory, but the benefit helped the student’s brain get focused and aligned.
Learning a Musical Instrument Improves Other Learning Skills
Do you want your child to be smarter and perform well in school? Then make sure he or she has the opportunity to learn, listen and participate in music. Children who study music outperform their non-musical peers in almost all areas. Students who learn a musical instrument consistently score 39-51 points higher on the SATs than their non-musical peers. The longer they have studied music, the higher their SAT scores, in both verbal and math. Those who take keyboard, harp and violin score the highest.
A group of preschool children had keyboard lessons for eight months. Afterwards, their spatial IQ, which is used for higher brain functions like complex mathematics, increased by 46 percent. (7) It ‘s never too late to bring music into your life. (Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks!) Your brain can always benefit from the stimulus and learn to make new connections. Skills that can be enhanced include: sensory motor, availability, vocabulary and verbal language, and visual.
The coordination needed to play instruments with two hands (and sometimes two feet) increases the coordination between the two sides of the brain. Also, fine motor skills become more highly developed. And learning music helps develop both language and math skills by developing neural pathways in the brain.
A study at Northwestern University found that studying music improved the ability to hear various sounds, including speech. This skill comes in handy when one is learning a new language. Some parts of the brain recognize the tone of voice, but not words. (8)
David Merrell, a high school student from Suffolk, Virginia, proved in 1996 that even mice can benefit from listening to classical music. He had mice run through a maze in 10 minutes, then played heavy metal music to some mice and classical music to others, 10 hours a day for three weeks. The mice who had heard classical music then went through the maze in a minute and a half, while the mice exposed to the rock music took 30 minutes. He had to stop the project early because the mice who listened to the hard rock all killed each other! (9)