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MusicTraining Linked to Improved Teenage Brain Development

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Jul 24, 2015

According to research conducted at Northwestern University, music instruction, begun as late as high school, can “help improve the teenage brain’s response to sound and sharpen hearing and language skills.” The authors of the study – which will be published the week of July 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – suggest that brain enhancements from music education bolster skills that are crucial for academic success.

“While music programs are often the first to be cut when the school budget is tight, these results highlight music’s place in the high school curriculum,” said Nina Kraus, senior study author and director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at the School of Communication. “Although learning to play music does not teach skills that seem directly relevant to most careers, the results suggest that music may engender what educators refer to as ‘learning to learn.’”

The researchers followed two groups of students for a period of four years. One group was enrolled in band classes, which “involved two to three hours a week of instrumental group music instruction in school.” The second group joined Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and focused on fitness exercises. According to Northwestern University, “electrode recordings at the start of the study and three years later revealed that the music group showed more rapid maturation in the brain's response to sound.”

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