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Music and brain growth.

Q I have heard that music lessons help a child's brain grow. Is this true or just an old wives' tale?

A Researchers looked at MRI scans of healthy children that were being obtained as part of a larger study of normal brain development, correlating the development of several brain areas with musical training. They found that as kids age, the ones taking music lessons had more rapid growth and maturation of brain centers involving not only motor planning and coordination, but also emotional self-control and impulse regulation.

When you exercise a muscle, it grows bigger and stronger. The same thing, essentially, happens in the brain--but it's more complicated, because different parts of the brain do different things. What this study confirms is that at least with music, the areas of the brain exercised with musical training become "stronger"--or, at least, larger and thicker, which in brain-terms means more effective. The authors speculate that conditions like ADHD, where those same areas of brain seem relatively under-functioning, might be helped by learning to play a musical instrument.

Think about the bigger picture, too. Whatever your kids are doing, that's the area of the brain they're exercising. If they're reading, they'll become better readers; if they're playing tennis, they'll get better at seeing and hitting a little fuzzy yellow ball. If video games are their main hobby, they'll get better at making fast decisions and moving their hands quickly. Katy Perry fans will get good at dancing like sharks. You get the idea. At the same time, kids who don't practice the self-control needed to learn a musical instrument might be missing out on at least one way to help their brains mature.

To learn more, and stretch your brain, look up "Cortical thickness maturation and duration of music training: Health-promoting activities shape brain development" from Pediatrics, 11/14.

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Title Annotation:Pediatric Insider
Author:Benaroch, Roy
Publication:Pediatrics for Parents
Article Type:Brief article
Date:May 1, 2014
Words:308
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