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  • Writer's pictureTatum Hodgson

Music and Memory

The best part about being a musician is sharing the gift of music with different audiences. Music connects people and provides a common language through which new friendships can grow. I have experienced this numerous times through the opportunity to perform in different states and countries. My fondest memories still lie in playing at retirement homes and watching people who may have forgotten things perk up when they hear music they heard as a child.

As a young student, I played monthly performances and recitals at a retirement home. Friends, family, residents, and staff members would attend. Afterwards, residents shared fond recollections of playing an instrument or the times they attended regular concerts over the years. On multiple occasions, this led to a discussion of how music had positively improved their minds in later years, and how listening or trying to play music they once knew brought back memories otherwise forgotten. This was so interesting to me that I did some research. I found studies at the University of Southern California, which examined how music affected the brains of children who studied music from a young age.

Some of the key conclusions were:

  • Listening to and performing music reactivates areas of the brain associated with memory, reward-related prediction, emotion, speech, logical reasoning, and high-level sequencing functions.

  • Music helps retrieve stored memories

  • Music helps create new memory

Children who received music training:

  • Showed stronger robustness of the white matter (a sign of stronger connectivity in the corpus callosum, an area that allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain.)

  • Showed increased cortical thickness (a reliable measure of brain maturity)

  • Had increased gray matter density in the right primary auditory cortex, while age-matched children receiving no musical training did not.

There are many studies outlining the benefits of music on the brain proving that, while listening to

music is beneficial, the unique processes activated through musical training greatly increase the

cognitive processing centers that are used in problem solving, memory, and complex motor skills. The

benefits of learning an instrument or actively listening to music aid memory in later years and can be

cultivated at any time. Knowing all of this, makes me love sharing the gift of music even more.

With joy,

Tatum Hodgson and the StringTime Family

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