PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – With the Grammy Awards just around the corner, Oregon Health & Science University is highlighting one neuroscientist’s research on the benefits of music. 

Larry Sherman, Ph.D., said a person doesn’t need to be a world-class musician to profit from practicing music. 

“It turns out that practicing a musical instrument might be the most difficult and challenging thing a human brain can do,” Sherman said. 

Sherman is a professor in the Division of Neuroscience at the Oregon National Primate Research Center at OHSU. He’s given presentations on the benefits of music and has co-authored a forthcoming book on the topic. 

He said practicing music can help generate neurons, strengthen the connections between brain cells, and rebuild the myelin sheaths that enable transmission of electrical signals between cells.

“You’re integrating sensory and fine motor skills, gross motor skills. You’re holding your instrument, moving your fingers. You’re doing all these things, and it’s rewiring your brain to the point where you can actually become a Grammy-nominated musician,” he said. 

Sherman said playing music into old age can be especially beneficial. It can help restore the brain and prevent it from becoming more aged and less functional.

Playing music with a group of musicians may be even more beneficial, Sherman said. 

MRIs have shown that music triggers neurotransmitters, such as endorphins and dopamine, which are associated with positive feelings. OHSU said these neurotransmitters can relieve pain and create a feeling of communal belonging. The bigger the group, the bigger the effect, OHSU said. 

“I always tell people, if only we could get Congress to sing together,” Sherman said. 

He believes it’s possible the communal activity of playing music together has bound human communities together for thousands of years. 

The fact that we’ve found flutes in Neanderthal caves means something,” he said. 

Sherman studies neurodegeneration, especially in conditions such as multiple sclerosis. He has also worked to popularize neuroscience through a series of public presentations involving his own personal interest in music. 

He made a joint appearance with Grammy-nominated vocalist Valerie Day and jazz pianist Darrell Grant in Portland in 2008 and since then has spoken regularly about neuroscience and how it relates to music, love, chocolate and even racism.