It may surprise you to discover that the world-renowned physicist, Albert Einstein, was also an accomplished violinist. His success in this area is due to his mother, a gifted musician in her own right, who prioritized musical training as a part of the everyday routine in their home. In fact, recent research has suggested that Einstein’s musical training established well-developed connections between the left and right hemispheres of his brain, perhaps explaining why he was so brilliant.
There are numerous studies that have expounded on the relationship between music lessons and brain functions; the impact that music may have on the brain has been detailed in multiple reports. These brain-boosting improvements can be seen in benefits such as the following:
- Improved verbal memory and literacy in children
- More smiles and improved communication in babies
- Increased brain plasticity in older adults
- Better multisensory processing skills
- Increased blood flow to the brain
- Improved memory
- Thickened cortex gray matter
To achieve these benefits for yourself, regardless of your age, you need to do the following things:
1. Listen to classical music.
While this one seems obvious, one of the most powerful ways to improve your brain function is to listen to classical music frequently. However, not just any classical music will do. A recent study focused on individuals who listened to both Beethoven and Mozart while undergoing brain scans. The results were fascinating: the people listening to Mozart had increased alpha power and higher brainwave activity levels than with any other type of classical music.
The duration of your listening is also important. Researchers indicate that people need at least 20 minutes of active listening per day to achieve a marked effect on brain function. Further, it is not enough to merely listen to classical music in the background as you go about your day. This will not improve your brain function. To fully realize the positive effects of classical music, you need to intentionally concentrate on the music, listening closely to the patterns, the rhythms, and the other components that make up the piece.
2. Get moving.
In addition to listening to Mozart, one of the most effective things you can do to increase your brain function is to stay active. To further amp up your memory-boosting capacity, download some of your favorite Mozart compositions to your iPod, so you can listen while you work out. You don’t need to do hours of rigorous exercises, but staying physically active will help your brain form new synapses, thereby improving both its capacity and function. Take your music to the beach, the park, or in your car as the soundtrack to your next road trip. The specifics of your activity aren’t important (in terms of brain development and memory), you simply need to get up and move.
3. Take music lessons.
Regardless of how old you are, the benefits of music lessons on the brain are astounding. For the young child, learning an instrument develops connections between math and music, builds confidence, and increases self-esteem. As an adult, the impact of music lessons is no less impressive. Learning (or relearning) to play an instrument can activate new parts of the brain, thus helping to improve memory and preventing cognitive decline.
4. Attend an orchestra concert.
To fully engage your brain, look for opportunities to attend an orchestra concert in person. Many communities offer performances throughout the year at various venues. Get a group of your friends together and make it an annual tradition. Not only will you enjoy the outing, but you will also be helping build those brain synapses that will enable you to remember the afternoon long after the ticket stub has faded.
5. Ride a bike.
Research has discovered that there is a strong correlation between some form of bi-pedal activity and creative breakthroughs. Einstein himself once remarked, “I thought of it while riding my bicycle,” referencing a discovery he had just made. Creating symmetry between the left and right sides of the brain may be one of the secrets to unlocking brain function and capacity.
Young children can receive multiple benefits from studying music, and researchers are only recently beginning to uncover the positive effects of music training for older adults. Finding ways to add music into your everyday life can not only improve your brain function, but it can also give you a new or a greater appreciation for the arts.