Music lessons provide a workout for the brain

March 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Kindermusik | Leave a comment
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17:22 13 March 2009 by Andy Coghlan

Scans of the brains of child musicians before and after musical training have yielded compelling evidence that proficiency and skill relies on hard graft, not innate genius.

Earlier studies have shown that adult musicians have different brains to adult non-musicians. But the latest results settle arguments about whether the brain differences were there from birth, or developed through practice.

“This is the first paper showing differential brain development in children who learned and played a musical instrument versus those that did not,” says Gottfried Schlaug of Harvard Medical School.

Schlaug’s team tested musically untrained six-year-olds from the Boston area, 15 of whom then received weekly keyboard lessons for 15 months, and 16 of whom didn’t. When they compared magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans taken before and after for both groups, they found that auditory and motor areas of the brain linked respectively with hearing and dexterity grew larger only in the trainee musicians.

At the end of the training period, the musicians also outperformed the others at specific tasks related to manual dexterity and discrimination of sounds. But the two groups were matched on more distantly related skills such as arithmetic. Schlaug says that the same pupils are being followed in case it takes longer for these more “distant” skills to emerge. (read more)

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