“Is it worth learning a musical instrument?”
Despite the commonly-held suspicion that playing classical music to your kids will make them clever – the so-called “Mozart effect”, which has long had mothers subjecting their babies to symphonic sounds – there’s actually very little scientific evidence for it.
Not so, however, when it comes to learning music, rather than just listening to it. A raft of studies have proved that practicing music serves as a form of brain training, strengthening neural pathways and boosting overall cognitive ability. This has a beneficial effect on memory, reasoning, pattern recognition and many other skills. It’s all down to a phenomenon known as “neural plasticity”: the brain’s ability to rewire the connections between individual neurons, so making itself stronger.
Brain scanning studies have proven that structural differences exist between the brains of musicians and non-musicials,
You could argue that this is because people whose brains are already naturally musical are simply more likely to become musicians, but the work of Professor Gottried Schlaug of the Harvard Medical School, is gradually disproving the idea. He has studied the brains of children just as they start to learn an instrument, finding evidence that the important features of the musical brain are yet to develop – and thus supporting the view that “learning music really does make us smarter.”
Extract from: “100 answers every Grown Up needs to know” (The Sunday Times; 16 September 2012)