In this essay I will discuss the neurological and psychological impact of learning and playing the piano on the brain. When learning how to play the piano the brain develops effective use of complex motor skills, learns how to use of both hands effectively and gains other skills that transfers into other areas other than just music like studying, multitasking and problem solving.
In a study comparing the effects of piano training/lessons to the effects of different activities (for example: physical exercise, computer lessons, painting lessons, etc.) questions about the subjects quality of life, moods were asked. As well as the Stroop test and other neuropsychological tests were given. (The Stroop test measures executive functions, inhibitory control, effectiveness at dividing attention during tasks) The piano lesson/training group had a 13 test subjects while the other group had 16 test subjects. After four months both groups were evaluated to see which treatment (piano or other activities) had a greater positive effect on the test subject’s brains. The piano group showed significant improvement on the Stroop test, while the other showed less improvement than the piano group. The piano group also showed better/improved visual scanning ability, motor skills. They also showed a decrease in depression rate, more positive moods and had an improved physical and psychological quality of life. A surprising side effect of playing piano is that pianists are able to (subconsciously) shut off a part of their brain that provides stereotypical responses and pump less blood to certain areas of their brain to increase concentration.
Inside the brain there is several different parts that have specific jobs like problem solving and storing information, but there is no specific area for music so playing the piano uses areas not only from many areas in the brain but it helps both the left and right sides of our brain work together. Playing the piano also helps non-ambidextrous people overcome handedness. Handedness is controlled by the central sulcus, which determines handedness and relays information between both sides of the brain. A scan of any experienced piano player’s brain will show they have a more balanced central sulcus than a non-musician or any hand specific musical instrument and will have better left/right brain communication. Playing the piano has also been shown to strengthen the non-dominant hand of the piano player.
In another study by Agnes Chan at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, kids who have been given piano lessons before they turn 12 have been proven to have better spoken word memory. And both the University of Wisconsin and the University of California at Irvine have concluded that learning piano helps in more than just playing music and the skills learned carry over into problem solving and other skills. A study of two groups of preschoolers, one with piano lessons and one without, showed that the lessons group had “greater spatial-temporal reasoning” than the control group (no lessons).
So in conclusion playing the piano increases brain efficiency, concentration, and motor skills, while decreasing negative moods and depression. It also strengthens ambidextrous-ness, problem solving skills, neurological pathways, brain function and generally improves the quality of life for those who play.