Music training initiated during high school might hone brain development.
Music training, begun as late as high school, may help improve the teenage brain’s responses to sound and sharpen hearing and language skills, suggests a new Northwestern University study.
The research, to be published the week of July 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), indicates that music instruction helps enhance skills that are critical for academic success.
The gains were seen during group music classes included in the schools’ curriculum, suggesting in-school training accelerates neurodevelopment.
“While music programs are often the first to be cut when the school budget is tight, these results highlight music’s place in the high school curriculum,” said Nina Kraus, senior study author and director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at the School of Communication.
“Although learning to play music does not teach skills that seem directly relevant to most careers, the results suggest that music may engender what educators refer to as ‘learning to learn,'” Kraus added.
Kraus and colleagues recruited 40 Chicago-area high school freshmen in a study that began shortly before school started. They followed these children longitudinally until their senior year.
Nearly half the students had enrolled in band classes, which involved two to three hours a week of instrumental group music instruction in school. The rest had enrolled in junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), which emphasized fitness exercises during a comparable period. Both groups attended the same schools in low-income neighborhoods.
Electrode recordings at the start of the study and three years later revealed that the music group showed more rapid maturation in the brain’s response to sound. Moreover, they demonstrated prolonged heightened brain sensitivity to sound details.
All participants improved in language skills tied to sound-structure awareness, but the improvement was greater for those in music classes, compared with the ROTC group.
According to the authors, high school music training — increasingly disfavored due to funding shortfalls — might hone brain development and improve language skills.
The stable processing of sound details, important for language skills, is known to be diminished in children raised in poverty, raising the possibility that music education may offset this negative influence on sound processing.
“Our results support the notion that the adolescent brain remains receptive to training, underscoring the importance of enrichment during the teenage years,” the authors wrote.
Music enhances the teenage brain’s response to sound; sharpens language skills
Band class had larger effect on brain than fitness-based ROTC training
Results highlight music’s place in the high school curriculum
Kraus: ‘Music may engender what educators refer to as learning to learn’
Study coauthors include Adam Tierney and Jennifer Krizman of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory and the department of communication sciences at Northwestern.
Source: Julie Deardorff – Northwestern Image Credit: The image is credited to NeuroscienceNews.com Original Research: Abstract for “Music training alters the course of adolescent auditory development” by Adam T. Tierney, Jennifer Krizman, and Nina Kraus in PNAS. Published only July 20 2015 doi:10.1073/pnas.1505114112
Music training alters the course of adolescent auditory development
Fundamental changes in brain structure and function during adolescence are well-characterized, but the extent to which experience modulates adolescent neurodevelopment is not. Musical experience provides an ideal case for examining this question because the influence of music training begun early in life is well-known. We investigated the effects of in-school music training, previously shown to enhance auditory skills, versus another in-school training program that did not focus on development of auditory skills (active control). We tested adolescents on neural responses to sound and language skills before they entered high school (pretraining) and again 3 y later. Here, we show that in-school music training begun in high school prolongs the stability of subcortical sound processing and accelerates maturation of cortical auditory responses. Although phonological processing improved in both the music training and active control groups, the enhancement was greater in adolescents who underwent music training. Thus, music training initiated as late as adolescence can enhance neural processing of sound and confer benefits for language skills. These results establish the potential for experience-driven brain plasticity during adolescence and demonstrate that in-school programs can engender these changes.
“Music training alters the course of adolescent auditory development” by Adam T. Tierney, Jennifer Krizman, and Nina Kraus in PNAS doi:10.1073/pnas.1505114112