Thursday, August 14, 2014

This is Your Brain on Music

Over the years, there has been plenty of circumstantial evidence about the connection between music and academic success, but, if you are middle aged (or even more “mature”), much of what we learned was based on speculation. With newer brain imagining tools, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), scientists can actually see neurons firing. With more rigorous scientific studies, researchers can dig deeper than the chicken-and-egg theories that were the best we had twenty or thirty years ago (remember the one about music and SAT scores? Did music cause higher SAT scores or did kids with higher IQs gravitate toward music?). The current research is exciting because the correlations are being drawn and they are strongly supporting the theory that music participation creates better brains. As music teachers, it is important that we keep up on what current research is saying about how participation in music improves our thinking. Share these morsels with your administrators, students, and their parents to remind them that music is not just an activity, but an integral part of academic development.

Participation in music makes the brain stronger. The more music experience a child has, the more effectively their brain works.

Here is what the research says:

1. The more accurately a child (or an adult) can keep a steady beat, the better reader they will be. The more experience you have dancing, singing, tapping, and playing to a steady beat, the better you will read.

2. The more years of music study a child has, the better they can separate intentional sound from noise. A classroom or a workplace can be a very noisy place. If you can stay focused on the important information and block out the noise, you will be a more successful student and a more successful employee.

3. Reading music requires processing of a symbolic language. Strong music readers are also strong text readers, particularly with non-fiction.

4. Playing instruments and singing provide a sensory experience from the inside out. This builds thicker connections between the brain and the various body systems used. For example, when a violinist uses their left hand for very detailed movements over many years, the part of their brain that controls the left hand will be denser. Scientists can look at a brain scan and see that it belongs to a violinist!

5. Playing music fires up more parts of the brain at the same time than ANY other activity you can do. Think about all the connections made when you: blow or bow, press the keys or play the notes on the string, read the music, connect to the steady beat, watch and respond to the conductor. Even the immune system is strengthened!

6. Music is a language. Learning to “speak music” increases your vocabulary and communication skills. Some people call music the universal language because it is spoken all over the world. The more languages you speak, the better you can communicate.

7. Music allows communication without words. People who are strong musicians usually have good social and emotional skills because they have mastered non-verbal communication.

8. Playing music with other people releases endorphins --- chemicals in our brains that are nature’s anti-depressant. We just feel better when we play together.

Brain Rules by John Medina


Mari Schay teaches K–5 general music, choir, beginning band, and marimba band at Earl Boyles Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. She has also taught middle school general music and band as well as private percussion lessons. Mari received her B.M. in percussion performance and her M.A. in teaching from Willamette University. She also holds a M.M. in percussion performance, which she earned at the University of Cincinnati, College Conservatory of Music. While at the conservatory, she worked with Percussion Group Cincinnati. Mari has performed and recorded with a variety of orchestras, new music ensembles, and pop music groups, and is a former member of Boka Marimba, a Zimbabwean-style band in Portland.

No comments:

Post a Comment