Learning Music for the Developing Mind

For years, we have all heard about the effect just listening to music has on the brain. The so-called "Mozart Effect" was supposed to make you smarter, especially if you were taking a math test or studying.

New evidence is showing that learning to play an instrument, even if only casually, can have profound impacts on the brain. Think of it this way, you have to actually exercise to get in better shape, you can’t do it by sitting down and watching an exercise video.

Playing a musical instrument has been shown to thicken the cortex of several brain structures that are involved in motor planning and coordination, visiospatial ability, emotion, and impulse regulation, according to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, published in Nov. 2014.

This information may have some big implications for students with ADHD or who experience sub-clinical depression or anxiety.

Nikki Z. Shorts, the lead strings teacher and conductor of the Heart of Los Angeles website, said she has seen one group of sometimes rambunctious 1st graders develop into attentive 4th graders in the three years she has taught them.

“In order to cultivate the skills to sit and focus, they’re like athletes: We exercise our brains and our bodies, and then we have to take a break, relax, and come back to it. And over time, that skill builds up,” she said.

Teachers and researchers have known for a long time that students who play instruments also tend to be higher academic achievers than those who do not play an instrument.

Recent scientific literature seems to back them up. One study found that executive function, which refers to mental abilities such as inhibition, problem solving, goal-directed behavior and maintenance of information in working memory, increases if children play a musical instrument.

Possessing strong executive function has been shown to be strongly related to mathematics and literacy skills in kindergartners, according to the study by Jennifer Zuk et al. published in PLoS One in June 2014.

Studying music has also been shown to improve spatial reasoning skills. People who can read music have a mental concept of how one note sounds in relation to another note and can approximate how they will sound.

Music also teaches the importance of work ethic and the pursuit of excellence. Learning an instrument and preparing a piece of music takes a lot of hard work and practice.

Neurologist and essayist Oliver Sacks' book "Musicophilia" is an exhaustive look at music and the brain. Perhaps Sacks bests summarizes how transformative music is on the human brain:
"Anatomists today would be hard put to identify the brain of a visual artist, a writer, or a mathematician," Sacks writes, "but they could recognize the brain of a professional musician without a moment's hesitation.”

As to how to keep children interested in playing instruments, I think parents should find the kind of music their kids love, good teachers, and an instrument they’ll like. Making music should be something that children enjoy and will want to keep doing for life.

With that in mind, it’s not too late to trade in those gameboys, iPads, and XBox games that you may have purchased, and swap them out for music lessons for the kids in your life.

~ Dr. Corey D. Rom

For information on other positive effects of music, click herehttp://www.emedexpert.com/tips/music.shtml

This blog is based on articles written by:
Melissa Locker and Cory Turner