Music Education Can Build Up Your Brain

A new study reveals that as little as one year of musical training can have a positive impact on your brain that will last the rest of your life.

Let’s say you took violin lessons all through elementary school, but you haven’t gotten the instrument out of its case in years. Were all those lessons a waste of your parents’ money because you didn’t become a Joshua Bell-level virtuoso?

Not at all. Even though your school performance days have long since passed, a new study reveals that as little as one year of musical training can have a positive impact on your brain that will last the rest of your life.

In an experiment comparing preschooler who had taken music lessons to those who hadn’t, researcher Laurel Trainor of the Institute for Music and the Mind at Ontario’s McMaster University discovered that the musically-trained kids had larger brain responses to certain sound recognition exams. Trainor’s findings reveal the possibility that musical education can actually modify the brain’s auditory cortex, leading to better overall learning skills.

The study’s results indicate that “musical training (but not necessarily passive listening to music) affects attention and memory, which provides a mechanism whereby musical training might lead to better learning across a number of domains,” Trainor said in a statement.

The effects of music education are even more pronounced in children with dyslexia and other language-related disabilities. “A music intervention that strengthens the basic auditory music perception skills of children with dyslexia may also remediate some of their language deficits,” said Gottfried Schlaug, who has also studied music education in relation to learning.

So, whether or not you can play a Tchaikovsky symphony part, it’s likely that your years of music lessons prepped your brain for all the presentations, emails, and adult conversations that are part of your life today. To help make sure that kids today have the same opportunities for music-inspired brain enhancement, help out by volunteering with or donating instruments to your school’s music education department, or contributing to a nationwide group like Little Kids Rock.

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