Drummers are a different breed. Anyone can hit something with a stick, but keeping time — and producing a rhythmic cacophony of sound — requires a different skillset altogether. And sometimes, that skillset is one that can change your brain over time.
Drumming requires the musician to complete complicated fine motor tasks with two hands, simultaneously and very well — occasionally incorporating leg movement as well. Maybe it comes as no surprise that their brains would look a little different.
A university in Bochum, Germany conducted a study to determine the differences between drummer and non-drummer brains. Researchers recruited professional drummers with an average of 17 years of drumming practice who played for almost 11 hours each week. For a control group, they recruited participants who did not play any musical instruments.
Using an MRI, researchers determined there were differences in the corpus callosum, a bundle of nerve fibers responsible for communication between the left and right brain hemispheres. Drummers’ corpus callosum indicated higher rates of diffusion than that of non-drummers, which ordinarily carries a negative association — like loss of white matter, as seen in diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
However, because the participants were young and healthy, researchers had to draw a different conclusion. Although the drummers’ corpus callosums held fewer fibers, the fibers present were thicker — and more effective. The drummers who performed the best were those whose brains indicated higher rates of diffusion.
At the end of the day, practice makes perfect. And drumming practice can make some exciting differences in the brain.