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Learning to Play Music Makes Children Smarter

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It’s long been thought that music plays an integral role in the shaping of minds, and many scientists have suggested that music may even make you smarter. Now studies have shown that children who play musical instruments show signs of stronger cognitive function. This may come as no surprise to most Americans as baby toys that play music have been marketed to the masses under the appeal of making your child smarter, and these products do have some tests that prove this to be true, which makes them even more appealing. Of course, there’s a difference between simply listening to music, and learning to physically play an instrument yourself.

What The Statistics Say

The Children’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts has conducted researching using MRI or magnetic resonance imaging to seek out changes in the brain during music play. The results showed enhancement in areas that are used for main functions. This executive functioning is at the top of the chain of brain activity, meaning that this part of the brain that’s being exercised is likely the most important part of the brain in your body, as it controls other areas of your thoughts and physical functions.

The Study

The study used to find this information was conducted using children who had been taking music lessons, either publically or privately for a minimum of two years. This included fifteen children between the ages of 9 and 12, all of whom had been studying music for more than the minimum requirement of 2 years. These study subjects were compared to 12 other subjects who had no background in musical practice at all, aside from what’s required in the school system. The results showed a much higher level of activity in the prefrontal cortex among those who played an instrument. The senior investigator of the study, Nadine Gaab, Ph.D. is quoted by CTV News in saying: “While many schools are cutting music programs and spending more and more time on test preparation, our findings suggest that musical training may actually help to set up children for a better academic future.”

This certainly gives pause for thought at the amount of arts programs being cut, and the number of children who go without a music education of any kind. Most schools, public and private offer some form of music program between grade 4 and grade 6, but this may alternate from state to state and school to school. This gives students the opportunity to get involved in something bigger than them and learn to play an instrument.

Other Findings

Other findings from this research has shown that it isn’t only children who are affected by having a musical background, adults who play an instrument, or have been involved in music in some way or another also showed better scores regarding brain activity, showing that it doesn’t matter how old you are, music can be of great aid. Not only can adults benefit from learning music, but those who are hard of hearing, or are legally deaf can also benefit from an education in music. Irish Deaf Kids, a non-profit organization based out of Dublin, Ireland has said: “Music is appreciated by both deaf and hard of hearing people, with research showing its advantages. Educational benefits of music to deaf children are known, with vital language skills learned through the medium of music.”

Some deaf children will never head the tones and notes the way that hearing children do, but they can feel the vibrations, and learn to move their fingers and read music at high level, that in some cases could even surpass their peers. This shows that musical knowledge assists all people, which certainly provides some confusion in regards to the many cuts within school systems across the country.

Ways to Involve Children in Music

Having the knowledge that children and music combine to create more active brans and better learning skills isn’t enough on its own, parents must make the first move to get their child into programs that teach and encourage musical practice. This can be difficult for some families as owning a musical instrument is quite expensive, but there are rental programs through schools and music stores that will allow children from all financial backgrounds to have the opportunity to play. You can also incorporate music into your child’s life through other venues such as clubs that bring together learning and music; this type of musical education exercise may not include learning to play an instrument, but it certainly gives children the chance to interact with others in a stimulating environment, and this can be highly beneficial for other activities. Kidshealth.org suggests: “One study demonstrated that second-grade students who were given keyboard training while also using math software scored higher on proportional math and fractions tests than students who used the software alone. And students who have been involved in public school music programs score higher on their SATs than those who don’t.”

This might leave some parents wondering if they should break those rules about letting teens study with their music playing, but while playing an instrument or listening to music before a study period can create higher brain function and give higher test possibilities, trying to multitask while studying or writing notes may not work out as well as your children hope. There’s a big difference between making music a part of your life, and trying to do two things at once that don’t allow you enough time to focus on either properly.

Some of the studies surrounding children and music involve babies before they’re born, and use microphones to send music signals through the womb of pregnant women. Although it’s difficult to monitor this type of test and be sure that it’s affecting the child’s brain power, there are ways for scientists to determine if a baby hears what’s going on outside of the womb, and whether or not there is a response. Many of these research projects find that pregnant women will feel more kicking and movement when music is being played, and this can even change due to the volume and genre of music being listened to.