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Cognitive Development

  • Does Music Make You Smarter?

    Mike Lawson | December 12, 2013

    And does it matter?

    A recent study by researchers at Harvard University calls into question the general assumption that music study helps students perform better in other academic areas. While many studies on this subject continue to be in their infancy and there are countless correlations between achievement and intensive musical training, according to an article in The Boston Globe from 12/11/2013, it's not so clear cut, and it turns out that this might not be a bad thing. 

    Contrary to popular belief, a study — led by a Harvard graduate student who plays the saxophone, flute, bassoon, oboe, and clarinet — found no cognitive benefits to music lessons.

    The finding, published Wednesday in the journal PLOS ONE, is bound to make arts advocates cringe, as it overturns an argument that is often used to bolster the case for music education: it’ll make kids better at math.

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  • An Introduction to Researching Music and the Brain

    Mike Lawson | October 12, 2012

    Part 1: An Introduction to Researching Music and the Brain

     

    Two pioneers in the field of researching how music impacts the brain are Dr. Nina Kraus and Dr. Aniruddh Patel. SBO recently spoke with these two scientists to discuss their work and its broad implications on music education.

    Nina Kraus plays the electric guitar, some bass, and a bit of drums. She is also a professor of neurobiology at Northwestern University, where she heads the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.

    "There's so much work to be done," says Kraus. "I don't need to tell music educators how important music is, not only for the sake of music but also for helping kids become better learners. However, there aren't a lot of visible scientific outcomes in education in general, and there aren't a lot of ironclad results that show the effect that the musical experience has on the nervous system. The work that my lab does, along with the work of others in the field, can hopefully provide some of the evidence that the educators and policy makers can use to get more resources for more music."

    Kraus's studies of the impact that music has on various cognitive abilities have been published in some of the world's leading scientific journals. This summer, Kraus published a study in the Journal of Neuroscience titled "A Little Goes A Long Way," touting the lasting brain benefits of even a relatively small amount of musical study. In that experiment, which received significantf media attention, Kraus measured the brain's response to sound among 45 students at Northwestern University and determined that people with even a small amount of musical training were "better at processing sound" than those with no musical training.

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