Sunday, November 20, 2011

Music Training Causes Changes in the Brain – Catherine Applefeld Olson, Teaching Music, April 2010


In a recent study, researchers in Massachusetts found that changers are more pronounced in children who practice music more frequently. These changes did not correlate with improved performance in mathematics, spatial skills, or phonological ability. The study consisted of comparing two groups of six and seven year olds; one with musical training and one without. After three months the children who received musical instruction showed improvements in the following areas: the motor area, the corpus callosum, and the right primary auditory region.

Additionally, the changes became more pronounced over time and the musically trained students also performed better on motor sequencing tests involving patterning. The study did not detect any difference in performance in select academic areas between the two groups. The author makes a point that although the correlation between arts and other subjects is important, it does not justify music education. The arts are crucial in themselves, not because there may be a positive relationship between them and success in mathematical patterning.


What I liked most about this article was the author’s stance on arts education advocacy. Too often we see music educators advocating for their program because musical training may benefit other subject areas (hence the “music makes you smarter” theory). But we need to support arts education as it’s own entity and promote the benefits on its own.

I think we should promote aesthetic education and the social connections inherent in music making while supporting these claims with scientific evidence. If we are going to make the claim that there is a positive correlation between playing music and success in math, then we must ensure that music stands out on its own instead of being dependent on another subject area.

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