New research finds that musical training not only enhances a person’s musical ability but also plays a role in developing children’s emotional and behavioral maturity.
The University of Vermont College of Medicine discovered that a child does not need to be a Mozart-playing prodigy to reap the benefits of playing an instrument. They found that even the slightest introduction to music allowed children to receive the important developmental advantages that come with learning music.
Lead researcher James Hudziak and his colleagues analyzed 232 brain scans of children ages 6 to 18 and compared the relationship between cortical thickness in their brains and whether they had musical training. Their objective was to decide whether a “positive activity” such as musical training influenced the structure and function of young minds. Their previous studies found that negative emotions such as anxiety, depression and aggression were linked to changes in cortical thickness.
Hudziak discussed with The Washington Post the results of his study:
“What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument, it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.”
The results showed a correlation between music training and increased thickness in parts of the brain responsible for executive functioning. Such skills include memory storage, attentional control and organizational skills.
With the increasing emphasis on the STEM subjects, the American education system is forgetting that music and humanities have an important place in student’s curriculum as well. As a result, music and the arts are often the first to go when schools make budget cuts.
It’s unfortunate since the benefits of a high-quality music education suggest that it is one of the most effective ways to help ensure a child’s success later in life. As Hudziak told the Post:
“Everyone in our culture knows if I lift 5-pound, 10-pound, 15-pound weights, my biceps will get bigger. The same is true for the brain. We shouldn’t be surprised we can train the brain.”