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Music Advocacy

Music and the Brain

January 8, 2016

musicandthebrainleadimageIt’s no secret that taking part in musical activities has a significant positive effect on young people’s academic achievement. There are countless news stories from reputable organizations that extol the virtues of music education, and it is easy to find discussions by experts in neuroscience about just how impactful music can be. There is ample proof that music aids intellectual development in a number of different subjects for students of all ages and has a lasting effect as they age.

Just listening to music is known to have positive effects on your mind and mood, as anyone who has ever relaxed to their favorite song can attest. But playing music does even more, helping young people deal with anxiety and with boundless other issues that can arise during development. And, in the long run, music makes you live longer, hear better, and think more clearly well into the late stages of life.

Yes, music is, without question, one of the best methods for creating intelligent, well-rounded students, and its benefits extend well beyond the school years. Of course, this is not news to us in the music world, but there are many places where music is being cut from school curricula. It is up to us to advocate for the importance of music education and share the wealth of evidence that it is key to the development of young minds.

 

Check out this sampling of articles on music and the brain:

Have a favorite article on the relationship between music and development? Share it in the comments!

Music Advocacy

Wired For Music

July 19, 2011
Bobby McFerrin

Bobby McFerrin

Music exists within us all.  You don’t have to play cello in the symphony, sing tenor in the choir, or shred a mean guitar in a metal band in order to find it.  The ability to understand and express ourselves through music is as intrinsic as our natural abilities to walk, speak and ride a bicycle.  Music is emotion in its purest form, yet more and more we are discovering the logical, scientific relevance it has in our everyday lives.  If you don’t believe me, then you should watch this short video from renowned vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin.  In this video, McFerrin cleverly utilizes the pentatonic scale to demonstrate the extent to which the human brain truly is wired for music.  If you are already a believer, well then, perhaps you will discover a new method of teaching music theory to your students.

Click here to watch the video.

Music Advocacy

Play Music, Age Well

June 10, 2011

There has been much research done on the cognitive benefits of musical activity during childhood;  a recent study conducted by the University of Kansas analyzes whether or not these benefits carry over into adulthood.  While more research is needed, the findings thus far are quite fascinating.

The study divided its participants, aged 60 to 83, into the following three groups:  those with no musical training;  with one to nine years of musical study;  and with at least ten years of musical training.  All of the participants had similar levels of education and were considered fit and healthy.  All of the musicians involved were amateurs who had begun playing around age 10.  The following is an excerpt from the article published on the American Psychological Association’s website:

“The high-level musicians who had studied the longest performed the best on the cognitive tests, followed by the low-level musicians and non-musicians, revealing a trend relating to years of musical practice. The high-level musicians had statistically significant higher scores than the non-musicians on cognitive tests relating to visuospatial memory, naming objects, and cognitive flexibility, or the brain’s ability to adapt to new information.

“The brain functions measured by the tests typically decline as the body ages and more dramatically deteriorate in neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.  The results ‘suggest a strong predictive effect of high musical activity throughout the lifespan on preserved cognitive functioning in advanced age,’ the study stated.

“Half of the high-level musicians still played an instrument at the time of the study, but they didn’t perform better on the cognitive tests than the other advanced musicians who had stopped playing years earlier. This suggests that the duration of musical study was more important than whether musicians continued playing at an advanced age, lead researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, PhD says.”

Interestingly enough, MENC’s 2011 slogan for Music in Our Schools Month was “Music Lasts a Lifetime.”  It would appear that they are onto something.

Click here to read the full article:  http://bit.ly/eV6i5x

Music Advocacy

Creativity: Your Brain on Improv

January 20, 2011

I know what you’re thinking.  How can one scientifically analyze a concept that, by its very nature, is capricious and unpredictable?  Dr. Charles Limb, a faculty member of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, has done a fascinating study on the activity of the brain when engaged in a musical activity.  Using a Functional MRI machine, which not only takes pictures but also monitors blood flow to the different areas of the brain, Dr. Limb put jazz musicians and rappers through a series of exercises to see what goes on neurologically when we play music.  From what he has found, our brains react very differently when performing a memorized piece of music versus improvising.  During improvisation, areas of our frontal lobe which are thought to be responsible for self-monitoring (self-reflection, introspection and memory) were turned off, while other areas that are thought to be responsible for self-expression turned on.  There seems to be an interesting shift in dynamic that occurs when your brain transitions from being inhibited and assigned limitations versus given the freedom to be creative.

Perhaps even more fascinating was Dr. Limb’s second experiment, during which he and renowned jazz musician and composer Mike Pope took turns improvising back and forth with one another.  Results show that areas of Mike’s brain which are thought to be responsible for language and expressive communication suddenly began lighting up on the FMRI monitor.  Similar results were found when rappers were monitored during freestyling.  Could it be that there is a neurological basis for the sentiment that music is indeed a language of its own?

To watch the presentation Dr. Limb introduced at the TED Conference this past November which details the process involved in obtaining these results, click here.