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Research

  • Music Study Enhances Brain Function In At-Risk Children


    Mike Lawson | September 3, 2014

    Research shows that two years of musical training in community music programs improves auditory brain function

    A new Northwestern University study funded by the NAMM Foundation provides the first direct evidence that a community music program for at-risk youth has a biological effect on children’s developing nervous systems. Two years of music lessons improved the precision with which the children’s brains distinguished similar speech sounds, a neural process that is linked to language and reading skills.

    “This research demonstrates that community music programs can literally ‘remodel’ children’s brains in a way that improves sound processing, which could lead to better learning and language skills,” said study lead author Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles professor of communication sciences in the School of Communication and of neurobiology and physiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern.

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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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