Brain: Shaped By Experiences
("no greater testimony that we are fearfully and wonderfully made”)
Unlike any man-made computer, the brain is made of living cells that must constantly change as we acquire new skills and information. It appears that the physical architecture of the brain itself changes in response to our experiences. Such a marvelous design makes it possible for us to grow and adapt to our changing environment..snip
Music and the Brain
Neuroscience researchers have known for years that the brains of musicians have more grey matter in certain areas than most other people. Are they born with these differences, or do their brains change with experience? Neuroscientists have tended toward the latter view but lacked hard evidence.1
Recent studies have demonstrated that music training also improves skills in many areas, including fine motor skills and sound discrimination. Some researchers have even noticed improvement in attention, math skills, and geometry tasks.2 Imaging studies of the brain have confirmed that the networks of neurons associated with these abilities change physically, too.
Scientists have not been able to completely rule out the possibility of predisposition or innate structural differences in the brain that would account for musical ability, but the amount of tissue in different regions of the brain does tend to correlate with the amount of practice and training. Musicians, for example, have more tissue in regions responsible for sound discrimination and finger control. This and other evidence strongly suggests that experience alters the architecture of the brain. Neuroplasticity refers to the changes that take place as the neurons’ connections (called synapses) are generated, altered, and reinforced (Figure 1).