In an online publication of Faculty of 1000: Biology Reports, Lutz Jäncke summarizes recent studies of professional musicians. He discusses research that suggests regularly playing a musical instrument changes the anatomy and function of the brain and may be used in therapy to improve cognitive skills.
According to background information in the article, 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 change the neurophysiology of the brain.
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 Jäncke, “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 Jäncke 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.”