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Learning anything, but especially a musical instrument, helps nurture neurogenesis and neuroplasticity, both essential for retaining memories and executive function.
Kate Kunkel was a harp performer for more than 20 years, and has been teaching harp since 1996. As a brain health coach since 2010, she shared her expertise in her recent book, "The Musical Brain". Now she brings to adults learning the harp her combined experience as a harpist and her knowledge, passion, and dedication to brain health.
If you have chosen the harp as the instrument you wish to learn to improve your brain health and your life, set your free consultation with Kate by clicking the link below.
Kate is always happy and excited to share the healing and brain-enhancing power of music, and especially the harp. If you'd like to chat about your wishes and dreams for a healthier brain through music, click on the link below to set up a complimentary half-hour discussion. Be sure to mention "Harp for the Brain" in the notes!
The parts of musicians’ brains responsible for motor control, auditory processing, and spatial coordination are larger and different from those of others. We are able to see in brain scans that the corpus callosum, the broad band of nerve fibers that enables the two hemispheres of the brain to communicate with each other, is larger in musicians. This additional white matter may be why people who play music have more cognitive reserve, meaning that their brains are better able to withstand the ravages of time and the environment.
Another area of the brain seen to be enhanced in musicians is the hippocampus, which is the area involved in learning and memory. Since loss of volume in the hippocampus is connected to development of dementia, it is especially important to give it every chance to remain healthy. Other areas involving movement, hearing, and visuospatial abilities are also larger in musicians.
Brain scans also show that individuals with musical skills are more efficient and use less energy in the brain, and scientists believe this could delay the onset of dementia in later life.
While these structural enhancements are greater when we study music as children, we still garner many of the same benefits when we study later in life. Problem-solving, memory, emotional intelligence, planning, and many more cognitive functions are enhanced by playing a musical instrument.
“Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated, graceful.” Plato
Unlike the oft-recommended activities like chess or Sudoku or crosswords, playing a musical instrument involves pretty well every part of the brain. Motor systems in the brain are required to make the lips, hands, and feet produce sound. The auditory system is activated by the sounds, and feedback from that adjusts motor function.
Your sense of touch is also activated by touching the keys or strings or bow, and that sends information to the brain. If you’re also reading sheet music, the message from your eyes goes through the visual processing center to your brain, which interprets that information to tell your lips, hands and feet what to do in response to the printed information.
You have to marvel at all that’s going on in the brain when you play a musical instrument. No wonder the brains of musicians are more efficient and have greater cognitive reserve than non-musicians.
Kate learned harp self-study with a Sylvia Woods book and tape (yes, that long ago - VHS!).
Sylvia has provided inspiration and harp knowledge for many, many harpists over many years. She also has a listing of harp teachers around the world, so if you would like to learn the harp and wish to have personal lessons, you may find someone in this listing who could help you. HERE is a link to her site:.