String players–unique brains!

Davenport Suzuki string player

Why are string players often subjects of brain research?


String players show evidence of more brain plasticity.

Brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change.  It describes a process of development in the brain that happens during our lives, beginning before birth. It used to be thought that brain plasticity only occurred at certain times, but now they think it might occur throughout our lives.

What brain plasticity means for us:

1. New connections in the brain may form to take the place of injured tissues or injured connections.

2. New growth in the brain may occur.

3. Areas in the brain in charge of certain activities may shift when new skills are learned.

One Study:

Click here for the study reported in String Visions, a study done on a small group of young students who played the violin, cello, or guitar compared to those without musical training.

Results of Study, interesting to us and useful for researchers:

1. The brains of the string players were larger (that’s a good thing). One part of the brain takes over adjacent areas like weeds on a lawn.

2. Parts of the brain which are sensitive to left hand finger motions were quicker to respond. (String players use their left hands differently than their right hands.)

3.  There was a shift in the location in the brain where the left hand is controlled. It is apparent in the study that the earlier the child started string lessons, the greater the shift.  (Researchers would want to use this information to prove that a different part of the brain might take over when there is an injury.)

The Mental Processing Speed of players

Researchers also reported that string players and other musically trained children have faster mental processing speeds on some tasks, as measured by IQ and musical ability tests. The results don’t show a cause and effect relationship between music training and higher IQ. But the results do show that music lessons have an influence on mental speed and general intelligence.

The Conclusion?

Unlike the latest activity touted for our young, violin lessons are now and always will be good for their brain.

“Anatomists would be hard put to identify the brain of a visual artist, a writer, or a mathematician – but they could recognize the brain of a professional musician without a moment’s hesitation.” Dr. Oliver Sachs