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Learning Musical Instruments Boosts Students' Brain Functions, Study Finds

Learning Musical Instruments Boosts Students' Brain Functions, Study Finds

A new study finds that learning a musical instrument can help children reduce feelings of anxiety, gain control their emotions and focus their attention.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and the authors describe the study as "the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development," according to an article on

"The aim of the study was to assess any associations that may exist between playing a musical instrument and cortical thickening in the brain," the article said. "As children grow up, the outer layer of the brain (cortex) changes in thickness, and certain changes have previously been found by researchers to be associated with altered mental states."

According to the article, "using magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] data, cortical thickening and thinning in particular areas of the brain had been demonstrated by the team to indicate mental conditions such as anxiety, depression and attention problems, even in children who were undiagnosed with any form of mental disorder. As a result, professor of psychiatry Dr. James Hudziak and colleagues decided to investigate whether positive stimulation in the form of musical training would have any effect on cortical thickening."

The article said participants for the study "were taken from National Institutes of Health [NIH] MRI Study of Normal Brain Development. A total of 232 children, aged 6-18, were analyzed by the researchers."

"Each participant underwent MRI scanning and behavioral testing on up to three different occasions with a 2-year interval between each one," the article said. "As well as the data from these brain scans, the researchers had access to the participants' IQ and musical training data.The researchers observed a number of changes associated with musical training in various areas of the brain. As predicted, the motor areas were altered, as playing an instrument necessitates the control and co-ordination of movement."

Musical training, the article said, "was also associated with cortical thickening in areas of the brain related to executive functioning, inhibitory control and the processing of emotions."

According to the authors, "these include working memory, attentional control, as well as organization and planning for the future."

Read the full story and comment below. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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