17 Mar Music and Learning Boost Your Brain Power with Music
As part of our brand new series of blogs on the area of music and learning, we’ll be exploring the incredible effects music can have on our bodies, our brains, our behaviour and crucially its role in learning! This week, we’re looking at how music can help improve a child’s IQ and memory.
For many years it’s been anecdotally bandied about that children, in particular, can really benefit from learning to play a musical instrument. Teachers and parents noticed greater interaction from these children, improved recall of information and an overall improvement in grades. But it seems that there’s now real science to back up this widely held belief. In fact, some scientist are now concluding that learning to play a musical instrument can even increase your child’s memory and IQ levels! Pretty
amazing, right? But just how does it achieve this? Well incredibly enough, learning to play a musical instrument requires you to use both sides of your brain, sort of like a full body workout for your cerebrum! According to Lutz Jäncke, a psychologist at the University of Zurich: ‘Learning to play a musical instrument has definite benefits and can increase IQ by seven points, in both children and adults.’
Crucially though, studies have shown that it’s the physical and mental participation in learning to play an instrument, rather than just listening to music that’s the key factor. Indeed, a recent study from Northwestern University in the USA, revealed that in order to fully reap the cognitive benefits of a music class, children can’t just sit there and let the sound of music wash over them. Instead, they have to be actively engaged in the music and participate in the class. ‘Even in a group of highly motivated students, small variations in music engagement — attendance and class participation — predicted the strength of neural processing after music training,’ said Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory
Neuroscience Laboratory. Additionally, the study showed that students who played instruments in class had more improved neural processing than the children who attended the music appreciation group!’
So it seems music literally helps fire up your child’s entire brain resulting in more engagement with their learning, allowing them to process information in a more efficient way. Indeed, a recent study from the Boston Children’s Hospital, also found a correlation between musical training and improved ‘executive function’ in both children and adults. What’s Executive functions (EF) you might ask? Well it’s very much what we are seeing from the children in the classrooms, such as better attention, interaction, discussion and retention of information. EF are classed as highlevel cognitive processes that enable people to quickly process and retain information. Nadine Gaab, PhD, from the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s went on to say; “Since executive functioning is a strong predictor of academic achievement, even more than IQ, we think our findings have strong educational implications.”