Could music stimulate kids’ brains?

Could music stimulate kids’ brains?

Could music stimulate kids’ brains?

Berthold Auerbach, German poet and author said, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Music has long been known as the universal language, and has a way of healing our emotions.

Now, research from the University of Vermont College of Medicine psychiatry team shows that musical training might help children focus their attention and heal anxiety.

James Hudziak, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, and colleagues including Matthew Albaugh, Ph.D., and graduate student research assistant Eileen Crehan, call their study “the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development.”

As kids age, the cortex (outer layer of the brain) changes in thickness.

In Hudziak’s previous research, MRI data showed that thicknening and thinning was associated with anxiety, depression, attention disorders, aggression, and behavior control. These symptoms were shown even in children who weren’t diagnosed with a mental illness.

In this study, Hudziak wanted to prove – could music stimulate kids’ brains and influence changes in the cortex?

The study supports The Vermont Family Based Approach, a model that Hudziak created to prove that all the components of a kid’s environment, including parents, teachers, friends, pets, and extracurricular activities, contribute to his or her health.

Music is a critical component in my model,” Hudziak says.

The study authors found that playing music stimulated the motor areas of the brain. Thus, music could stimulate kids’ brains.

Hudziak also observed changes in behavior-regulating areas of the brain. Musical training helped thicken areas of the cortex that relate to “executive functioning, including working memory, attentional control, as well as organization and planning for the future,” the authors note.

The musical background of a child may also thicken areas of the cortex that relate to “brain areas that play a critical role in inhibitory control, as well as aspects of emotion processing,” the authors added.

The findings of this study confirms Hudziak’s belief that a musical instrument can help a child fight psychological disorders even more than medication. “We treat things that result from negative things, but we never try to use positive things as treatment,” he says.

Musical treatment may be tough to accomplish. The U.S. Department of Education reports that three-quarters of U.S. high school students rarely or never take extracurricular music or art lessons.

Such statistics, when taken in the context of our present neuroimaging results underscore the vital importance of finding new and innovative ways to make music training more widely available to youths, beginning in childhood,” the authors write.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

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1. “Could Playing Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” and Other Music Improve Kids’ Brains?University of Vermont College of Medicine. University of Vermont, 22 Dec. 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2014.
2. “Cortical Thickness Maturation and Duration of Music Training: Health-Promoting Activities Shape Brain Development.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 03 Sept. 2014. Web. 29 Dec. 2014.

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