A project of the Child Trends News Service supported by the National Science Foundation

Learning Music Makes Kids Smarter

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Five years ago, psychologists at the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California studied how learning music might affect brain development in young children. The researchers used MRIs to look at potential brain changes after participation in music and other activities.

Twelve-year-old Raquel Montoya has played violin with the LA Philharmonic Youth Orchestra after school, two hours a day, since she was six. She’s in USC Professor of Psychology Assal Habibi’s study on how music training affects kids’ brains.

“We saw that children who have had music training had stronger brain activation in the frontal region of the brain. These are the areas that are responsible for decision-making,” detailed Habibi.

Researchers tracked 25 six-year-olds, using MRIs to measure things like brain maturation, social skills, and learning abilities. They compared their results with control groups of kids in sports programs and kids with no organized training.

The music-trained group had a stronger connection between the right and left sides of the brain. These kids’ cognitive skills, including executive function abilities and auditory skills, were better. Raquel said the training helps her learn.

Raquel told Ivanhoe, “When I’m at school and I see other kids that don’t do any other activities, like they just go home, I see them struggle a lot. And sometimes, I am just like, how’s this so hard when it’s easy?”

“Not only is it fun and brings children together and teaches them social skills, but it would seem to be important toward the brain and cognitive development,” explained Habibi.

Raquel’s mom, Angeles, agrees: “Music, it opens up the brain.”

The Youth Orchestra, or YOLA, is a free after-school program. Habibi is spreading the word about her study results, hoping they’ll convince policymakers that music and the arts are just as critical as science and math to children’s learning.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Full research article: https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nyas.13606

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