Regularly playing a musical instrument changes the anatomy and function of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills.
There is growing evidence that musicians have structurally and functionally different brains compared with non-musicians. In particular, the areas of the brain used to process music are larger or more active in musicians. Even just starting to learn a musical instrument can changes the neurophysiology of the brain.
Lutz Jäncke, a member of Faculty of 1000 Medicine, proposes using music in neuropsychological therapy, for example to improve language skills, memory, or mood. In a review for Faculty of 1000 Biology Reports, an online publication in which leading researchers highlight advances in their field, Jäncke summarizes recent studies of professional musicians.
The brain regions involved in music processing are also required for other tasks, such as memory or language skills. "If music has such a strong influence on brain plasticity," writes Jäncke, "this raises the question of whether this effect can be used to enhance cognitive performance."
Several studies indeed show that musical practice increases memory and language skills, and Jäncke suggests expanding this field: "Hopefully, the current trend in the use of musicians as a model for brain plasticity will continue ... and extend to the field of neuropsychological rehabilitation."
Notes to Editors
1 Lutz Jäncke is a Member of Faculty of 1000 Medicine, and professor of Neuropsychology at ETH Zürich http://f1000medicine.
2 Subscribers can view the full text of the article "Music drives brain plasticity" at http://f1000biology.
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4 The F1000 Biology Reports (ISSN 1757-594X) journal publishes short commentaries by the world's top scientists in which the hottest biology papers/clusters of papers identified by Faculty of 1000 are put into a broader context http://www.
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