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 J-ncke, 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, J-ncke 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 J-ncke, "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 J-ncke 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."