You have probably heard of grey matter but have you heard of white matter? White matter in our brain is tissue composed of nerve fibres. The fibres (called axons) connect nerve cells and are covered by myelin (a type of fat). The myelin is what gives white matter its white colour. and makes up about half of the brain, with grey matter making up the other half.
Both of these have play a different role:
- White matter = message system in the brain
- Grey mater = storage systems and structures in the brain
You can imagine then that white matter is very important and when messages are not travelling around the brain quickly or getting waylaid or lost, things are not good. The more white matter we have the better.
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This study by a lead researcher (that you should watch out for), Psyche Loui, found that children around the age of 9 who had just 30 minutes of music learning a week, had improved verbal ability and intellectual ability than non-musically trained children. Loui and her team attribute this to improved white matter microstructures induced by music learning.
But the final line of this abstract (full article coming soon) is my favourite – “Results suggest that the relationship between musical practice and intellectual ability is related to the maturation of white matter pathways in the auditory-motor system. The findings suggest that musical training may be a means of improving cognitive and brain health during development.”
You can read the abstract here!