Music learning improves children’s brain function, two studies show

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Music instruction can accelerate brain development in children and can help teens to focus and process sound, according to two new academic papers.

In a five year study by the University of South California’s Brain and Creativity Institute, music learning was found to boost brain development in the areas responsible for language development, speech perception and reading skills.

The institute, which began the study in 2012 in partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, examined the impact of music tuition on children’s social, emotional and cognitive development.

The initial results, published in the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience journal, show that music learning speeds up the maturation of the auditory pathway in the brain and increases its efficiency.

Neuroscientists monitored brain development and behaviour in a group of 37 children from underprivileged neighbourhoods of Los Angeles.

Assal Habibi, the study’s lead author, said: ‘We are broadly interested in the impact of music training on cognitive, socio-emotional and brain development of children.

‘These results reflect that children with music training, compared with the two other comparison groups, were more accurate in processing sound.’

In another new study by the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, US, it was revealed that music instruction changes the teenage brain.

The researchers found that studying music for at least two years alters teen brains in a way that makes them better able to focus and process sound.

For five years, neurobiologist Nina Kraus and a team of researchers measured the brains of students in choirs and bands. Once a year, researchers would record each student’s brain waves as they played various sounds.

They found that after two years, the brains of the students studying music were better at processing sound and were less distracted by background noise than peers who didn’t study music long term.

Kraus said: ‘What is really kind of stunning is that these ingredients that are important for language are also the same ones that are strengthened by making music.’


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