Music and the Brain

During musical performance, mental processes entail split-second evaluations and adjustments that enhance fine motor skills and strengthen synapses, allowing the brain to function more efficiently. (1, 13-15)

Musical performance activates multiple areas of the cerebral cortex and integrates the activities of the brain's left and right hemispheres, the aesthetic and the rational, united by the corpus callosum. (1, 6)

Studies have found that the brain's corpus callosum and planum temporale are more developed in musicians, reinforcing the concept that music enlarges neural pathways to stimulate learning and enhances phonological awareness. (3-5)

The study of music also develops accurate sound and speech processing, enhances IQ, improves retention of verbal memory and can help shape brain structure, with the most pronounced enhancements in those beginning their musical training early in life. (7-12)



  1. Norman M. Weinberger, “The Music in Our Minds”, Educational Leadership, Vol.56, No.3, November 1998.
  2. Gardner, Howard. Art, Mind and Brain – A Cognitive Approach to Creativity. New York: Basic Books, 1984
  3. “Brain: Music of the Hemispheres”, Discover, March 1994
    “Music of the Hemispheres”, James Shreeve, Discover, October 1996
    “Sweet Taste in Music May Be Human Trait, Harvard Study Finds”, Richard A. Knox, Boston Globe, September 1996
  4. G. Schlaug, L. Jancke, Y. Huang and H. Steinmetz, “In vivo morphometry of interhemispheric asymmetry and connectivity in musicians”. In I. Deliege (Ed.), Proceedings of the 3rd international conference for music perception and cognition (pp. 417-418), Liege, Belgium
  5. J. Sergent, E. Zuck, S. Tenial, and B. MacDonnall, “Distributed neural network underlying musical sight reading and keyboard performance”, Science, 257, 106-109.
  6. Ashbury, C. & Rich, B. (Eds.) (2008). Learning, arts and the brain: The Dana Consortium report on arts and cognition. New York: Dana Press.
  7. Nina Kraus and Erika Skoe, “A Little Goes a Long Way: How the Adult Brain Is Shaped by Musical Training in Childhood”, The Journal of Neuroscience, April 2012
  8. Schellenberg, E.G. (2004). Music lessons enhance IQ. Psychological Science, 15, 511-514.
  9. Berti, S., et al. (2006). Different Interference Effects in Musicians and a Control Group. Experimental Psychology, 53(2), 111-116.
  10. Pallesen, K.J., et al. (2010). Cognitive Control in Auditory Working Memory Is Enhanced in Musicians. PloS ONE 5(6); e11120.
  11. Ho. Y., et al. (1998). Music Training Improves Verbal Memory, Nature, 396, p.128
  12. Ho.Y., et al. (2003). Music Training Improves Verbal but Not Visual Memory: Cross-sectional and Longitudinal Explorations in Children, Neuropsychology, 17(3), 439-450.
  13. Foregard, M., et al. (2008). Practicing a Musical Instrument in Childhood is Associated with Enhanced Verbal Ability and Nonverbal Reasoning. PloS One 3(10); e3566
  14. Hyde, K.L., et al, (2009). Musical Training Shapes Structural Brain Development, The Journal of Neuroscience, 29(10), 3019-3025.
  15. Schlaug, G., et al. (2005). Effects of Music Training on Chlidren’s Brain and Cognitive Development. In S.D. Lipscomb, et al (Eds.), Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Music Perception & Cognition (pp.133-134). Adelaide, Australia; Causal Productions