Music IS Medicine!
Music Is Medicine
Why Is Music So Important For Our Health?
Playing music is a huge part for many kids lives growing up. Almost a right of passage that parents sign their kids up for Music lessons from the age 4 or 5.
But is music actually medicine too?
It's been known for years that kids who study music, do better in school. But why?
Music is good for your emotional and mental health and can be a huge way to cope with stress, but why do people who play in instrument from a young age and continue playing through their senior years seemingly appear to avoid senility or have improved cognitive function?
I know it's a cultural "expectation" and privilege to learn an instrument, but aside from teaching their children a life skill and something they could enjoy for their whole lives, it wasn't until quite recently did we understand how much music could affect their children's health and well being?
I've been a music teacher, student of music and musician since I was 12 years old. I came to the game late but was always listening and studying music for fun as a kid before I could play (did you hear that Bass line? That was a killer Piano part! Etc.).
Now, the more I learn about music, the more I'm fascinated by the benefits.
The magic of repetition
Learning and performing music is all about repetition. Practice makes perfect right?
Look, repetition is the key to learning everything. It's how you get good at something.
But what's interesting is Music is different than throwing a baseball or learning to coordinate your hands and feet for swimming.
Music activates the entire brain!
Doing a repetitive activity like sports or something physical activates one area of the brain or another, but music honestly activates all of it.
It's all in your head
Here's the deal, when someone does something repetitively they build and strengthen something in the brain called Myelin.
Think of Myelin as "insulation" or a blanket around the Axons in the brain. Axons are like wiring.
Myelin prevents information from getting lost on its way to where it needs to go in the body.
So what if you create more insulation (Myelin) around a wire (Axon)? You turn the wire into a superconductor! The information you have moving from your brain to your nerves travels with less resistance.
Without getting too morbid, if a coroner does an autopsy on two people, one being a musicians brain and the other a professional soccer player, the coroner can tell right away which one is the musician from the amount of extra Myelin in the brain.
Listening to music activates one area of the brain. Playing music another and reading music yet another. Aural, Visual and Kinaesthetic. Put it all together and you have the whole brain being activated.
So what makes kids smarter through music? Increased Myelin through the whole brain!
Lesions (or cuts) on the brain are common. On average most people experience one lesion on their brain one every 10 years.
There are all sorts of ways lesions or damage can occur in the brain. Some lesions are caused naturally through age, some autoimmune affecting someone neurologically, some physically from trauma from a head injury or more. Sadly, lesions can also disrupt the information traveling to the nerves.
Regardless, wouldn't it make sense that if people learn music and continue to learn and play music, they might have a better chance of the "electrical" information from the brain moving to where it needs to go in the body because the "insulation" is greater?
What if there was some damage to the brain? Music, in theory, could help create ways for the electrical information to travel again more smoothly because of the increased Myelin.
I'm not saying it would cure a severely damaged brain, but I believe it could very possibly help people with MS, stroke victims, Alzheimer's, etc.
Is music medicine? All the evidence points to it!
Why not give it a try?
Cofounder Upbeat Music Academy Kelowna
Kelowna, BC, Canada