Positive Parenting: Learning music may make kids smarter

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LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Five years ago, psychologists at the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California studied how learning music might affect brain development in young children. They used MRIs to look at potential brain changes after participation in music and other activities.

Raquel Montoya, 12 has played violin with the LA Philharmonic Youth Orchestra after school, two hours a day, since she was six. She’s in a study on how music training affects kids’ brains for Assal Habibi, a professor of psychology at Univeristy of Southern California.

“We saw that children who have had music training had stronger brain activation in the frontal region of the brain. These are the areas that are responsible for decision-making,” Habibi said.

Researchers tracked 25 six-year-olds, using MRIs to measure things like brain maturation, social skills and learning abilities. They compared their results with control groups of kids in sports programs and kids with no organized training.

The music-trained group had a stronger connection between the right and left sides of the brain. Their cognitive skills, including executive function abilities and auditory skills were better. Raquel said the training helps her learn.

“When I’m at school and I see other kids that don’t do any other activities, like they just go home, I see them struggle a lot. And sometimes, I am just like, how’s this so hard when it’s easy?" Raquel said.

“Not only is it fun and brings children together and teaches them social skills, but it would seem to be important toward the brain and cognitive development,” Habibi said.

“Music, it opens up the brain," Raquel's mom said.

The Youth Orchestra, or YOLA, is a free after-school program. Habibi is spreading the word about her study results, hoping they’ll convince policymakers that music and the arts are just as critical as science and math are to children’s learning.

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