In a study from the University of Bath, scientists found the positive impact learning to play a musical instrument has on the brain’s ability to process sights and sounds and showed how it can also help to lift a blue mood.
They found how beginners who undertook piano lessons for just one hour a week over 11 weeks reported big improvements in recognizing audio-visual changes in the environment and reported less depression, stress, and anxiety.
In the study, the team tested 31 adults who were assigned to either music training, music listening or a control group.
People with no prior musical experience or training were instructed to complete weekly one-hour sessions.
Whilst the intervention groups played music, the control groups either listened to music or used the time to complete homework.
The researchers found that within just a few weeks of starting lessons, people’s ability to process multisensory information—i.e., sight and sound—was enhanced.
Improved ‘multisensory process’ has benefits for almost every activity we participate in—from driving a car and crossing a road, to finding someone in a crowd or watching TV.
These multisensory improvements extended beyond musical abilities. With musical training, people’s audio-visual processing became more accurate across other tasks.
Those who received piano lessons showed greater accuracy in tests where participants were asked to determine whether sound and vision ‘events’ occurred at the same time.
This was true both for simple displays presenting flashes and beeps and for more complex displays showing a person talking.
Such fine-tuning of individuals’ cognitive abilities were not present for the music-listening group (where participants listened to the same music as played by the music group), or for the non-music group (where members studied or read).
In addition, the findings went beyond improvements in cognitive abilities, showing that participants also had reduced depression, anxiety and stress scores after the training compared to before it.
The researchers suggest that music training could be beneficial for people with mental health difficulties, and further research is currently underway to test this.
If you care about brain health, please read studies that one dose of alcohol is enough to change the brain, and how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and scientists find a new drug to stop brain tumor growth.
The study was conducted by Dr. Karin Petrini et al and published in Scientific Reports.
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