A new research from Northwestern University shows that learning to play musical instruments can help children develop their brain’s ability of processing reading and speech scores and thus improve academic performance. Researchers used data collected by The Harmony Project, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income children improve creativity through art and succeed in life.
The Harmony Project stirred researchers’ curiosity up after it had reported that 93 percent of the teens taking music classes at its LA center went to college, although in their community the dropout rate was more than 50 percent. So, the scientists designed a new study to see if music literacy is linked with higher brain functions in reality.
During their study, the Northwestern University’s researchers found biological evidence that music classes help children develop their fragile nervous systems. They also learned that children attending The Harmony Project’s music classes who had the highest level of engagement in studying music had the best neural improvements. Their peers who weren’t actively engaged in the class showed lower improvements.
Researchers believe that they now hold hard evidence against a widespread myth according to which only by listening to classical music people can improve their brain functions – the so called Mozart effect.
“We don’t see these kinds of biological changes in people who are just listening to music, who are not playing an instrument. I like to give the analogy that you’re not going to become physically fit just by watching sports,”
Dr Nina Kraus, researcher at Northwestern University and co-author of the study, said
The study shows that children studying music must be actively engaged if they want their brains to start hearing and processing sounds otherwise “invisible” to their ears. This “neurophysiological distinction” between musical sounds is linked with an improved literacy level and higher grades in school.
However, if the child doesn’t enjoy playing a musical instrument, he/she will not get any neural benefit from the music classes.
“Even in a group of highly motivated students, small variations in music engagement — attendance and class participation — predicted the strength of neural processing after music training,”
Dr Kraus also said.
Moreover, the study shows that students actively learning to play musical instruments in class developed a stronger neural processing ability than students involved in appreciating music. Dr Kraus said her team now believes that music really matters since only by active generation and manipulation of the sound the music could “rewire” the brain.
To get these results, Northwestern University’s group of researchers also used electrode wires on music classes students’ heads to screen their brains responses.
The study was published Tuesday in Frontiers in Psychology.
Image Source: Yourpacemusic.com