There’s one big problem with brain training apps. They don’t work.
Back in 2014, over 100 top psychologists and neuroscientists put out an open letter condemning the claims made by app makers. Then Lumosity, the company which makes many of these apps, was fined $2 million and told to refund its customers when its “brain training” claims were tested in court.
However, the fact that the apps aren’t very good doesn’t mean that you should abandon your quest for a more trained brain. It just means you should try something else.
The Case For Using A Musical Instrument To Train Your Brain
As you probably know, playing an instrument is not easy. It requires combining information from your sight, hearing, and sense of touch. You also need fine motor skills to play an instrument accurately.
It is theorized that the complexity of playing an instrument seems to lead to the benefits for the brain.
The Evidence For Brain Training With A Musical Instrument
Theories are good, but what we need to look for is actual evidence that they are borne out in the real world.
Brain scans of musicians have been compared to non-musicians, and the results are staggering. Musicians’ brains show much more development in an area of the brain called the corpus callosum. This handles the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain.
Individual musical disciplines have also been shown to affect specific areas of the brain. Violinists, for example, show development in the area associated with touch. Whereas keyboard players get a boost in parts of the brain associated with hearing, visuospatial activity, and movement.
Research also shows that children who get 14 months of musical training have significant structural and functional development in their brains, that other children (who do not get such training) do not.
There is also evidence that learning an instrument improves verbal memory, spatial reasoning and indeed, literacy. The trained musical mind is simply more powerful than the untrained mind.
There Are Long-Term Benefits, Too
More recent studies have shown some surprising results. People who received moderate levels of musical training while they were young show less deterioration of the brain as they grow older than those who were untrained. It has even shown to protect against dementia.
In short, while brain training apps don’t do what they claim to do, learning a musical instrument is of great benefit to your brain. The good news is that these benefits will last a lifetime. So now, the only question should be, “which instrument will I learn?”