Playing the Piano Helps Fight the Blues

Music has the power to enrich people’s lives. Playing musical instruments is quite demanding and engages several sensory and motor systems and many high-level cognitive processes. When playing a musical instrument, the musician needs to read the music scores, generate movement accordingly, and monitor the auditory and tactile feedback to adjust further actions. Learning the piano requires the musician to couple audio (the sounds that the piano makes) and visual cues (reading the music scores and monitoring the finger movements), which results in a multi-sensory training that can benefit audio-visual processing and enhance the ability to use this information (


In the randomized control study, 31 adults were assigned to either a music training, music listening, or control group. Individuals with no prior musical experiences or training were instructed to complete weekly one-hour sessions. Whilst the intervention groups played music, the control groups either listened to music or used the time to complete homework.


Each music training session included two segments. The first 20-minute segment was dedicated to finger exercises. The second segment consisted of learning songs from the ABRSM 2017-2018 piano grade one exam list for 40 minutes. All training sessions were carried out on a one-to-one basis.

Music Lessons and Multi-sensory Response

The researchers found that within just a few weeks of starting lessons, people’s ability to process multi-sensory information – i.e., sight and sound – was enhanced. Improved ‘multi-sensory process’ has benefits for almost every activity we participate in – from driving a car and crossing a road, to finding someone in a crowd or watching TV.

These multi-sensory improvements extended beyond musical abilities. With musical training, people’s audio-visual processing became more accurate across other tasks. Those who received piano lessons showed greater accuracy in tests, where participants were asked to determine whether sound and vision ‘events’ occurred at the same time.

This was true for both simple displays presenting flashes and beeps, and more complex displays showing a person talking. Such fine-tuning of individuals’ cognitive abilities was not present for the music listening group (where participants listened to the same music as played by the music group), or for the non-music group (where members studied or read).

In addition, the findings went beyond improvements in cognitive abilities, showing that participants also had reduced depression, anxiety, and stress scores after the training compared to before it. The authors suggest that music training could be beneficial for people with mental health difficulties, and further research is currently underway to test this.

Other studies have proposed that music training provides a framework for studying the brain and behavioral plasticity because it introduces a novel activity with complex sensorimotor behavior, adaptations related to learned behaviors, and involvement of higher-order cognitive functions. Given the multi-sensory and emotional nature of music practice, it is not surprising that musicians are reported to have better multi-sensory and emotion processing abilities than non-musicians. As multi-sensory and emotion processing are both crucial for daily cognitive functions and social interactions, a deeper understanding of how music could enhance them will inform the development of cognitive training for people who are known to have difficulties in multi-sensory and emotion processing (3 Trusted Source
How Musical Training Shapes the Adult Brain: Predispositions and Neuroplasticity

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The current study presents important evidence that there is a link between musical training and audio-visual temporal processing. 11 weeks of piano training can improve people’s audio-visual asynchrony detection and reduce their depression, anxiety, and stress.

References :

  1. An RCT study showing few weeks of music lessons enhance audio-visual temporal processing

  2. Musicianship Enhances Perception But Not Feeling of Emotion From Others’ Social Interaction Through Speech Prosody

  3. How Musical Training Shapes the Adult Brain: Predispositions and Neuroplasticity

Source: Medindia

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