Your Brain on MUSIC!
FAQS - Benefits on the Brain: Cognitive Development
Students who are involved in school music education programs score higher on standardized tests compared to students without music education programs, regardless of the socioeconomic community.
Playing a musical instrument significantly enhances the brainstem's sensitivity to speech sounds. This relates to encoding skills involved with music and language. Experience with music at a young age can "fine-tune" the brains auditory system.
Elementary school music students, on average score 22% higher in English and 20% better in mathematics than students who do not learn music.
Middle school music students score 19% higher in English than students in schools without a music program at all, and 32% higher in English than students in a deficient or underfunded music program.
Students in top-quality instrumental programs scored 17% higher in mathematics than children in schools without a music program, and 33% higher in mathematics than students in a deficient or underfunded music program.
Students at schools with excellent music programs had higher English test scores across the country than students in schools with low-quality music programs; this was also true when considering mathematics.
Students in all regions with lower-quality instrumental programs scored higher in English and mathematics than students who had no music at all.
— Journal for Research in Music Education, June 2007; Dr. Christopher Johnson, Jenny Memmott
Young Children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year, compared to children who do not receive musical training. Musically trained children performed better in a memory test that is correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics, and IQ.
— Dr. Laurel Trainor, Prof. of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behavior at McMaster University, 2006
Stanford University research has found for the first time that musical training improves how the brain processes the spoken word, a finding that researchers say could lead to improving the reading ability of children who have dyslexia and other reading problems… ‘Especially for children ... who aren't good at rapid auditory processing and are high-risk for becoming poor readers, they may especially benefit from musical training.’
— From “Playing music can be good for your brain,” SF Chronicle, November 17, 2005 (article on recent Stanford research study linking music and language)
The musician is constantly adjusting decisions on tempo, tone, style, rhythm, phrasing, and feeling – training the brain to become incredibly good at organizing and conducting numerous activities at once. Dedicated practice of this orchestration can have a great payoff for lifelong attention skills, intelligence, and an ability for self-knowledge and expression.
— From A User’s Guide to the Brain, May 31, 2003; Ratey, John J., MD
Learning and performing music actually exercise the brain – not merely by developing specific music skills, but also by strengthening the synapses between brain cells…What is important is not how well a student plays but rather the simultaneous engagement of senses, muscles, and intellect. Brain scans taken during musical performances show that virtually the entire cerebral cortex is active while musicians are playing. Can you think of better exercise for the mind/brain? In short, making music actively engages the brain synapses, and there is good reason to believe that it increases the brain's capacity by increasing the strengths of connections among neurons.
Music enhances the process of learning. The systems it nourishes, which include our integrated sensory, attention, cognitive, emotional and motor capacities, are shown to be the driving forces behind all other learning.
— From Empathy, Arts and Social Studies, 2000; Konrad, R.R.
Taking piano lessons and solving math puzzles on a computer significantly improves specific math skills of elementary school children. Children given four months of piano keyboard training, as well as time playing with newly designed computer software, scored 27 percent higher on proportional math and fractions tests than other children.
— From Neurological Research, March 15, 1999; Gordon Shaw, Ph.D, University of California, Irvine
Researchers at the University of Munster in Germany reported their discovery that music lessons in childhood actually enlarge the brain. An area used to analyze the pitch of a musical note is enlarged 25% in musicians, compared to people who have never played an instrument. The findings suggest the area is enlarged through practice and experience. The earlier the musicians were when they started musical training, the bigger this area of the brain appears to be.
— From Nature, April 23, 1998; Christian Pantev, et al
Nowhere in the spectrum of arts learning effects on cognitive functioning are impacts more clear than in the rich archive of studies, many very recent, that show connections between music learning or musical experiences and fundamental cognitive capability called special reasoning. Music listening, learning to play piano and keyboards, and learning piano and voice all contribute to spatial reasoning…In the vast literature on spatial reasoning (about 3,000 studies in some bibliographies), it is clear that mathematical skills as well as language facility benefit directly from spatial reasoning.
— From James S. Catterall, UCLA, Fall 1997