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Playing Music for Mind and Body

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Playing Music for Mind & Body
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When the notion of playing music in a band is brought up, often times it conjures up images of the lewd and crude rock star lifestyle. At least, this is what we’ve come to expect to see from the media. But what most people don’t realize is that playing music can have a significant positive impact on an individual’s health, mental well-being and even IQ. A study from the New York Academy of Sciences takes aim at finding a link between musical training and increased intelligence. The study revealed an increase in grey matter in the brains’ of musicians as opposed to their non-musician counterparts. Researchers feel that this notable increase is in part due to the repetition that takes place during rehearsals which improves cognition and memory. So does learning to play music make a person smarter? Glenn Schellenberg, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto, gives a resounding yes. His research into music and its cognitive abilities indicate short-term as well as long-term benefits. Mr. Schellenberg’s research goes on to point out an increase in participant’s IQ scores after only a couple of learning sessions. But music training has more in store than just intelligence benefits. According to a recent study conducted by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), a person playing a musical instrument is less likely to feel depressed and more likely to feel healthy. The study goes on to add that these findings are not limited to a single socio-economic background but instead are spread across multiple socio-economic backgrounds. Playing music in a band not only unites its members in a frenzy of sound and fury, but it also blurs the line between social classes, genders, races and political beliefs. It’s evident that playing music can bring about a healthier sense of well-being and togetherness. Relationships between band members and interaction between the band and audience during live performances help cultivate valuable social skills. In some cases, it can help overcome even some of the most severe cases of stage fright. So you might ask, what are some of the other advantages? Researchers at Northwestern University have found evidence linking musical training to increased abilities to process sight and sound. The evidence suggests that playing music can physically change the brain’s neurophysiology and positively affect individuals in other manners such as speech, vision and communication. The multi-sensory process that musicians undergo during a live performance, and throughout musical training, exercises the very same abilities required for reading and speech. Research results indicate that the musically-inclined are more capable of interpreting speech under noisy conditions as well as processing the slight variations in a person’s tone more accurately. What’s more, a study by Dr. Michael Miller at the University of Maryland Medical Center, suggests that playing music actually opens up blood vessels allowing increased blood flow throughout the body. This chemical reaction can combat the feeling of tension and also produce chemicals that safeguard the heart. Despite mass media’s negative portrayal of musicians and their lifestyle, playing music and learning to play music has proven to be quite healthy for a person. Medical evidence has uncovered increased levels of grey matter in musicians that researchers feel is directly responsible for higher IQ scores, improved memory and advanced cognitive abilities. Musicians are less apt to feel depressed and more likely to feel healthy. But the advantages simply don’t end there. Studies show that musicians are often better at processing speech, vision and communication. And as if that weren’t enough, playing music causes a chemical reaction in the body that facilitates an increase in blood flow and also produces chemicals that protect the heart. I strongly urge people of all ages to pick up an instrument and embark on your life’s journey with music on your side. The reward is great and spills over with health, happiness, great relationships and so much more. Billy Joel summed it up best when he sang, “Sing us a song you're the piano man. Sing us a song tonight. Cause we're all in the mood for a melody, And you've got us feeling all right,” (Billy Joel, 1973).

Reference List: * The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) (2009, December 16). Music and the arts fight depression, promote health. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091215160651.htm * Barry Bittman, M.D. (2005, February 2). Playing a Musical Instrument Reduces Stress on the Genomic Level. Medical News Today. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/19535.php * Northwestern University (2010, February 22). Music training enhances brainstem sensitivity to speech sounds, neuroscientist says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100220184327.htm * Northwestern University (2007, September 27). Music Training Linked To Enhanced Verbal Skills. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070926123908.htm * Val Willingham. (2009, May 11). The power of music: It's a real heart opener. CNN. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/05/11/music.heart/index.html * Lutz Jäncke. (2009, October 26). Music makes you smarter. EurekAlert. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-10/fo1b-mmy102609.php * Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (2006, June 22). Music Thought To Enhance Intelligence, Mental Health And Immune System. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/06/060622172738.htm * E. Glenn Schellenberg. (December 2005). Music and Cognitive Abilities. Sage Journals Online. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/14/6/317.full * Billy Joel. (1973). Piano Man. [M. Stewart]. Piano Man [Record]. Los Angeles, CA: Family Productions/Columbia Records. (1973)

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