Piano Playing Effects on the Brain

Scientists believe piano playing effects on the brain touch most those pianists who start their practicing in childhood.  They show more well developed nerve pathways in some parts of their brains.  They also believe that this results in a higher level of fine motor coordination.

The bottom line is that when young people engage in the activity of piano practice, the result is that their brains develop better.

Under the leadership of Fredrik Ullen at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, a research group has made a discovery explaining why young starting  piano students can develop their brains more fully with piano practice than those starting piano study at a later age.  The Journal of Natural Neuroscience presents the findings summarized below.

Piano Research on the Brain

This piano research on the brain was organized around three different age groups.  With the use of diffusion tensor imaging, childhood, adolescence and adulthood piano practice effects on the white matter of the brain was investigated.  There were positive correlations found between piano practicing and fiber tract organization in different regions of the brain for each age group.

It was found that children’s piano practice resulted in correlations that were more extensive than the other two groups and included the formation of a pyramidal tract which was more structured in musicians than  in non-musicians brains.  The conclusion was that long term piano training at critical brain development periods may cause regionally specific plasticity in myelinating (or nerve formation) tracts.

The main finding of this study is a clear effect that can be attributed to piano practice in early childhood.  The pyramidal pathway is a group of nerve tracts that travel through the cerebral cortex through the pyramid of the medulla oblongata in the brainstem to the spinal chord.  This is the part of the brain which develops most during childhood and is also responsible for intricate and sophisticated finger movements.

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