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Create New Brain Cells

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With each passing year, I become more acutely aware of my mind, or lack thereof.  I struggle with word retrieval and remembering facts.

This topic is embarrassing for me to admit; however, last January I had a serious conversation with my physician. I was concerned I had early onset Alzheimer’s. My physician smiled and responded “April, welcome to middle age.” She stressed the importance of learning something new in effort to create



At one time scientists thought we were born with all the brain cells we would ever have. However, in 1962, Joseph Altman debunked this theory. His findings were ignored for decades until further research showed brain cell regeneration occurred in non-primates and humans, a concept called neurogenesis. [1]

Neurogenesis: The process by which new nerve cells are generated. [2]

In an effort to create new brain cells, I began to play the violin. The first year I learned to play employing the classical Suzuki method. However, as a southern girl, I prefer Bluegrass over Bach. I was overjoyed when my instructor, Mrs. Peterson, agreed to teach me the fiddle technique. Goodbye Mississippi Hot Dog Twinkle and hello Bile ‘em Cabbage Down.  (I didn’t realize how vastly different violin and fiddle playing can be. If you are curious read “Twelve Questions Violinist Ask about Fiddling.” by Donna Herbert.)

Neuron brain cell pixabay

Playing an instrument is a full-body brain workout. When I am struggling with learning a new song, I tell myself, “Fireworks! There are fireworks going off in my brain.” My violin instructor showed this video during a lesson and I was amazed. Please take a few minutes to watch and learn “How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain.” by Anita Collins.


The human brain is capable of sprouting new brain cells (neurons) and forming new connections in the brain. These new connections or paths can be formed after injury (a stroke for example) or when learning something new.

Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to rewire itself by forming new connections or paths. [3]

Our habits form paths or tracks in the brain.[4] Imagine a heavy blanket of snow outside your front door. Every day when you walk to the mail box you walk in the same path as the day before. The snow continues to build, but your path never varies. Then one day, you decide to do something new and go off the path. At first, it is difficult because this is uncharted territory. As you forge ahead you create a new path, a new neural connection. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to do something new. Create new brain cells.

We can build new neural pathways by taking Robert Frost’s advice and take the road less traveled.

Other musical articles I’ve written include:

~April Dawn White


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