Two new studies from the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California have revealed that even just two years of music instruction has multiple benefits.
Music training can alter both the structure of the brain’s white matter, which transfers signals through the brain, and gray matter, which has most of the brain’s neurons that are active in processing information. It also improves brain network engagements that optimize decision-making abilities and the capacity to focus attention.
Many amazing effects of music on children’s development
These findings have been talked about in studies that have been recently published in scientific journals, including one in the journal Cerebral Cortex. They are the result of an ongoing longitudinal study that started in 2012, when the institute – which is based at the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences – partnered with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) to analyze the effects of music instruction on children’s emotional, cognitive, and social development.
“Together these results demonstrate that community music programs can offset some of the negative consequences that low socioeconomic status can have on child development,” says study lead author and assistant research professor of psychology Assal Habibi.
Neuroscientists monitored children reading and playing music
The first study had neuroscientists monitoring changes in 20 children who had learned to read and play music through the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles program at age six or seven.
The community music training program is very similar in structure to the one that Los Angeles Philharmonic music and artistic director Gustavo Dudamel had joined when he was growing up in Venezuela, where it was known as El Sistema.
In this study, the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles students picked up on the basics of playing instruments, such as the violin, in ensembles and groups, and they practiced for up to seven hours a week. The scientists compared the musicians to other children who were involved in other activities: 19 children in a community sports program, and, as a control group, 21 children who are not involved in any specific after-school programs.
Said regions, which are termed “auditory association areas”, are located just above the ears. The thickness of the cortex – which is the outer surface of the cerebrum where motor areas are located – is a dependable measure of brain maturity.
Music training affects brain structure
Children who were trained musically showed variations in the thickness of the auditory areas in the right versus the left hemisphere, a sign that music training affects brain structure.
“There has been a long suspicion that music practice has a beneficial effect on human behavior. But this study proves convincingly that the effect is real,” says Brain and Creativity Institute director and university professor Antonio Damasio.
In the second study that was published in the journal PLOS ONE, the neuroscientists at the Brain and Creativity Institute discovered that when the young musicians were doing a task that required intellect, they showed greater engagement of a brain network that handled executive function and decision-making.
The children who participated in the study were presented with a word whose meaning at times matched its color. The experiment is known in psychology research as the “color-word Stroop task”.
For instance, the word “blue” is shown in a blue font. After a time, however, the researchers mixed things up a little bit, and presented the kids with the word “blue” appearing in a red font. To gauge their impulse control and decision-making abilities, children were asked to disregard the written words and instead identify the color of the word. The children performed the task while undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, which measured the differences in brain responses between children who are learning music and children who are not.
Music can help the brain in several ways
“We have documented longitudinal changes in the brains of the children receiving this music instruction that are distinct from the typical brain changes that children that age would develop. Our findings suggest that musical training is a powerful intervention that could help children mature emotionally and intellectually,” Habibi says.
According to BeBrainFit.com, music can help the brains of students in such a way as to provide improved language development, improved test scores, increased brain connectivity, increased spatial intelligence, and a small increase in intelligence quotient (IQ), among others.
In addition, early music lessons can promote brain plasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to change at any age.
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Is Bread Really the Staff of Life… or the Stuff of Disease?
For most us, there are few foods more comforting than bread.
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And that smell… few scents are quite as pleasant as fresh bread baking in the oven.
But there is a lot of confusion as to where bread fits into a healthy diet.
The Bible practically commands followers to eat it: “Give us this day our daily bread…” The government put it at the base of the food pyramid. And for centuries, it has been called “the staff of life.”
Of course, there are some who disagree…
Well-known cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, calls wheat “the perfect chronic poison.”
And for a poison, we sure eat lots of it…
The average American consumes 55 pounds of wheat flour every year, making refined flour the #1 source of calories in the American Diet – a situation that nutrition expert Chris Kresser describes as, “a public health catastrophe.”
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- Is it the perfect poison… or an essential daily food?
- Is “gluten-free” bread better for you than regular bread?
- And can you still eat bread… while maintaining a lean body and optimal health?
The answers to these questions may surprise you!
Be sure to read #5 – the biggest surprise of all!
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Sponsored Health Resources
In the years that I've been working on this website project I've come across some amazing resources by some very special people. I'd like to share them with you here.
NOTE: I update these links often so please check back to see what's new!
1) Everyone knows green smoothies are healthy right? Have you heard of a “red” smoothie? If not, check out this story…
2) Forget what you've read about 10-day lemonade cleanses, 7-day detoxes with green juices and Gwyneth's gruel. All you need to do, and this is perfect for Saturday or or anytime really, is a simple 1-day cleanse.
3) This “hidden survival muscle” in your body will boost your energy levels, immune system, sexual function, strength and athletic performance when unlocked.
4) I thought it was virtually impossible for a website to be able to tell me anything even a little bit insightful after only submitting my name and date of birth... I was wrong!
5) Turmeric is amazing. The problem is - It's hard to absorb!
6) Wonder why your stomach still sticks out even though you're hammering the core exercises every day? It's a common myth that bulging belly is due to weak abdominal muscles.
7) Even if you're the most active of athletes, you may still suffer from tight hip flexors due to the amount of time you spend each day planted to a chair.
Enjoy! Let me know how these work out for you. And if you run across anything I've missed please let me know.