Playing the piano helps overcome depression and improves cognitive skills.

A randomized, controlled study conducted by psychologists shows that playing music has positive effects within a few weeks.

A new study from researchers at the University of Bath and published in Nature analyzed the cognitive impacts of learning to play the piano. The study demonstrates the positive impact that learning to play a musical instrument has on the brain’s ability to process images and sounds, and shows how it can also help improve your mood.

The study team shows how beginners who took piano lessons for just one hour a week for 11 weeks reported significant improvements in recognizing audio-visual changes in the environment and reported less depression, stress and anxiety🇧🇷

In the randomized control study, 31 adults were assigned to a music training, music audition, or control group. Individuals, with no prior musical experience or training, were instructed to perform weekly one-hour sessions. While the intervention groups played music, the control groups listened to music or took the time to do their homework.

The researchers found that within weeks of starting classes*, people’s ability to process multisensory information – that is, sight and sound – improved. Improved “multisensory processing” is beneficial for almost every activity we engage in, from driving a car and crossing a street to meeting someone in a crowd or watching TV.

These multisensory enhancements go beyond musical abilities. With music training, people’s audiovisual processing became more accurate in other tasks. Those who received piano lessons showed greater accuracy in tests that asked participants to determine whether sound and visual “events” occurred at the same time.

Participants also reduced depression, anxiety and stress scores.

This was as true for simple screens that featured flashes and beeps as it was for more complex screens that showed a person speaking. This adjustment of the subjects’ cognitive abilities did not occur in the music-listening group (in which participants listened to the same music as the music group) nor in the non-music-listening group (in which members studied or read).

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What’s more, the results went beyond improvements in cognitive skills, as they showed that participants also reduced depression, anxiety, and stress scores after training compared to before. The authors suggest that music training can be beneficial for people with mental health issues, and new research is underway to prove this.

Karin Petrini, a cognitive psychologist and music expert at the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, explained: “We know that playing and listening to music often brings joy into our lives, but with this study we were interested in finding out more about the direct effects that a short period of learning music can have on our cognitive abilities.

Learning to play an instrument like the piano is a complex task: it requires the musician to read a score, generate movements and monitor auditory and haptic feedback to adjust his subsequent actions. In scientific terms, the process combines visual and auditory signals and results in people being multi-sensory trained.

The results of our study suggest that this has a significant and positive impact on how the brain processes audiovisual information, even in adulthood when brain plasticity is reduced.

REFERENCE

An RCT study showing a few weeks of music lessons improves audiovisual temporal processing

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