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Learning Music Makes Kids Smarter

December 2018

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. The researchers used MRIs to look at potential brain changes after participation in music and other activities.

Twelve-year-old Raquel Montoya has played violin with the LA Philharmonic Youth Orchestra after school, two hours a day, since she was six. She’s in USC Professor of Psychology Assal Habibi’s study on how music training affects kids’ brains.

“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,” detailed Habibi.

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. These kids’ cognitive skills, including executive function abilities and auditory skills, were better. Raquel said the training helps her learn.

Raquel told Ivanhoe, “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?”

“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,” explained Habibi.

Raquel’s mom, Angeles, agrees: “Music, it opens up the brain.”

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 to children’s learning.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Full research article: https://nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nyas.13606


Spanish Translation

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Hace cinco años, Psicólogos del Instituto para el Cerebro y la Creatividad de la Universidad de Southern California estudiaron como el aprender música puede afectar el desarrollo cerebral en niños pequeños. Usaron aparatos de imagen de resonancia magnética para detectar posibles cambios en el cerebro, después que los niños participaran en actividades musicales, entre otras.

Desde hace 6 años, Raquel Montoya ha tocado el violín durante dos horas diarias después del colegio, con la orquesta filarmónica juvenil de Los Angeles. Raquel es una de las participantes en el estudio del Dr. Assal Habibi sobre como el entrenamiento musical afecta el cerebro infantil. Los investigadores estudiaron el desarrollo cerebral de 25 niños usando exámenes de resonancias magnéticas. Analizaron la madurez del cerebro, habilidades sociales y capacidad de aprendizaje. Compararon sus resultados con los de niños que participaban en actividades deportivas, y niños que no tomaban parte en ninguna actividad organizada. El grupo con estudios musicales tenía una conexión más fuerte entre los lados derechos e izquierdos del cerebro.

Asimismo, también tenían mejores habilidades cognitivas, como la competencia para ejecutar una tarea y mayor capacidad auditiva.

La orquesta filarmónica infantil de Los Angeles es un programa extraescolar gratis. Habibi espera que los resultados del estudio convencerán a las autoridades que la música y el arte son tan importantes para el aprendizaje infantil como la ciencia y las matemáticas.

Los contribuyentes a este reportaje incluyen: Cyndy McGrath, Supervisora Productora; Wendy Chioji, Productora de Campo; Milvionne Chery, Productora; Roque Correa, Editor; Rusty Reed, Camarografo.

Producido por Child Trends News Service en asocio con Ivanhoe Broadcast News y auspiciado por una beca de la National Science Foundation.