Monday, December 1, 2008

Music 'makes the brain learn better'



BBC Health


Music 'makes the brain learn better': The hours spent mastering the violin or piano are worthwhile - music lessons boost children's memories.


Summary: In this particular study, 90 boys between the ages of 6 and 15 were tested on their verbal and visual memory. Half of the students participated in the string orchestra at the school and had received lessons for up to five years. The remaining children had no musical training. All the children were given verbal memory tests, to see how many words they recalled from a list, and a visual memory test for images. Results differed in terms of the verbal memory test however, no differences were found in visual memory between the groups. The reasons behind these results suggest that music lessons stimulate the left side of the brain, which also controls verbal learning. Dr Agnes Chan, said giving music lessons to children "somehow contributes to the reorganization [and] better development of the left temporal lobe in musicians, which in turn facilitates cognitive processing mediated by that specific brain area, that is, verbal memory." This is interesting information, however, the researchers point out that children who are involved in music lessons tend to have parents from a higher socio-economic background. In addition, parents are more likely to help their children with homework.

Review: This article is well written and the study looks as if it was properly conducted. They clearly define their constructs and methodology. It was interesting that they went back a year later and retested all the students in the study, as well as some beginner music students who were originally from the non-music lessons group. I also thought their discussion on the socio-economic background of parents useful. In most cases, children who participate in music lessons do come from a higher socio-economic class, where parents are a huge part of their daily life, both at home and at school.


Reflection: I found this article well written and well presented. Probably the most interesting aspect is the fact that these findings could help people recovering from a brain injury as well as healthy children based on the results of this study. If students who are involved in music lessons can recall items better than non-music students on a verbal test, just think what this could do for patients suffering from a brain injury that damaged their verbal memory! Also, healthy children can work towards a better verbal memory right from early childhood, increasing their intellectual ability in other classes as well.


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