Here’s a story on some very specific ways that music benefits children and their brain development.
Pacific Standard writes about a group of researchers who gathered 44 children ranging in age from six to nine and followed them over the course of three years. All of the children came from gang-infested parts of Los Angeles and lived in communities stricken with poverty.
When the research began, 16 students were exposed to music instruction from the Harmony Project, a nonprofit that bring music education to low-income families. The remaining children waited one year before they received instruction.
At the end of the second year, the two groups were evaluated for how well they could process sound, including how quickly they could differentiate the syllables “ba” and “ga.” Researchers discovered that all students who particiapted in music lessons had improvement in neural functions compared to when they first particiapted in the project. Also, the children who participated in music for two years displayed “marked improvement” in distinguishing sounds.
“This suggests that music training transferred to non-music listening settings to influence automatic auditory processing,” according to Pacific Standard that quoted the research report from Nina Kraus of Northwestern University and her colleagues. “These improvements were in processes that are important for everyday communication.”
“Previous investigations have revealed that, as groups, children who are better readers, and children who hear better in noise, show stronger neural distinctions of these same syllables. These findings therefore provide support for the efficacy of community and co-curricular music program to engender improvements in nervous system function.”
Unfortunately, we know that children living in poverty deal with stresses that other kids cannot imagine. The stress can affect performance at school and we love the idea of music as a way to close the achievement gap.
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