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Music Training Boosts Learning and Communication Skills


Music not only provides pleasure during a long drive or a hard workout. It also can help skill such as language, memory, and attention because of its positive effect on the nervous system. Learning to play a musical instrument is even more beneficial.

Researchers from Northwestern University gathered data from multiple studies from around the globe that link musical training to learning. Nina Kraus, lead author and Professor of Communications Sciences and Neurobiology, says the research strongly supports the inclusion of musical training in educational settings.

Read: Music Education Aids Children's Speech Language Skills

Active engagement with musical sounds enhances the neuroplasticity of the brain, according to the research review. This describes the brain’s ability to adapt and change. Musical training also increases neural connections that prime the brain for communication.

"The brain is unable to process all of the available sensory information from second to second, and thus must selectively enhance what is relevant," Kraus said. Playing an instrument primes the brain to choose what is relevant in a complex process that may involve reading or remembering a score, timing issues and coordination with other musicians.

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Among the findings presented in the review, which is published in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience:

• Musicians are more successful than non-musicians in learning to incorporate sound patterns for a new language into words.
• Children who are musically trained show stronger neural activation to pitch changes in speech and have a better vocabulary and reading ability than children who did not receive music training.
• Music helps people understand speech in challenging listening environments, such as a noisy background – a particular problem for children with learning disorders.

Read: Music Enhances Learning in Alzheimer's Patients

Studies also suggest that learning a musical instrument at a primary school can boost a child’s confidence, which led to more positive attitudes toward learning. Musical training also promotes social skills, such as teamwork and collaboration, and appears to improve student concentration.

"The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness and thus requires society to re-examine the role of music in shaping individual development," the researchers conclude.

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Perhaps Philip Ball said it best... ... it will be a sad day when the only way to persuade educationalists to embrace music is via its side effects on cognition and intelligence. Music should indeed be celebrated (and studied) as a gymnasium for the mind; but ultimately its value lies with the way it enriches, socializes and humanizes us. I might add that the greatest thing about music is the people you meet through it. There are far greater reasons for learning to play! www.discoverlearnandplay.com