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  • Writer's pictureSo Breezy Babe

The Really Cool Way That Music Affects Intelligence.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”- Plato Will listening to music truly give your mind wings, and make you smarter? Can learning musical instruments from a young age make your brain larger than a normal untrained brain? This has become one of the leading questions from all over the world. In recent times the media has been fascinated by the research surrounding brain development and music, eagerly reporting on the latest studies to the delight of the music-loving parents of young children. With all the scientific research, multiple sources of information, it is still not completely certain if this is true. Have you heard of this phrase, "the Mozart Effect"? This has been popularized by the media in describing any situation in which music has a positive effect on cognition or behavior. However, “the Mozart Effect” refers specifically to a 1993 research finding by Frances Rauscher, Gordon Shaw and Katherine Ky and published in the prestigious journal Nature. Within the study they found within 36 college students who listened to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata performed higher on a subsequent spatial-temporal task verses silence or listening to calming music. A fascinated journalist wrote about this in the media, it was titled, "Mozart makes you smarter" - a huge over-simplification of the original results. The Mozart Effect was studied only in adults, lasted only for a few minutes and was found only for spatial temporal reasoning which Rauscher later explains. Nevertheless, the finding has since launched an industry that includes books, CDs and websites claiming that listening to classical music can make children more intelligent. “The Mozart Effect”, is a scientific controversy - not to mention the popular confusion for parent-. Parents often wonder if they should encourage their children to pursue a musical education. Numerous research has proven that there is an unequivocal positive effect for development on the human brain when studying music. Further research by Rauscher in 1994 showed that after eight months of keyboard lessons, preschoolers demonstrated a 46% boost in their spatial reasoning IQ, a skill important for certain types of mathematical reasoning.Early music training also appears to most strengthen the connections between brain neurons and leads to the establishment of new pathways. Gottfried Schlaug, Herman Steinmetz and collegues at the University of Dusseldorf research in 1994 was able to prove a long-term development relationship between music and brain growth. Discover magazine published an article which discussed research where the group compared magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brains of 27 classically trained right-handed male piano or string players, with those of 27 right-handed male non-musicians.They found that in the musicians' planum temporale - a brain structure associated with auditory processing - was larger in the left hemisphere and smaller in the right than in the non-musicians. The musicians also had a thicker nerve-fiber tract between the hemisphere. A vast difference was also found in those who began their musical training younger than 7 years of age. According to Shlaug, music study also promotes growth of the corpus callosum, around 10-15% thicker than in non-musicians. They speculated that a larger corpus callosum might improve motor control by speeding up communication between the hemispheres. Since then in 2002, a study by Dartmouth music psychologist Petr Janata published by Science, has confirmed that music prompts greater connectivity between the brains left and right hemisphere and between the areas responsible for emotion and memory, than does almost any other stimulus. Janata reported some areas of the brain are 5% larger in professional musicians than they are in people with little or no musical training, and that the auditory cortex in professional musicians is 130% denser than in non-musicians. Among musicians who began their musical studies in early childhood, the corpus callosum, will grow up to 15% larger. Research has proven that brain region connectivity, types of spatial reasoning functionality, and motor movements is improved by music training. The corpus callosum in musicians is essential for tasks such as finger coordination. Like a weight-lifter's biceps, this portion of the brain enlarges to accommodate the increased labour assigned to it. Dr. Timo Kring’s study in 2000 reported in Neuroscience Letters researched with pianists and non-musicians of the same age and sex were required to perform complex sequences of finger movements. The non-musicians were able to make the movements as correctly as the pianists, but less activity was detected in the pianists' brains. This concluded that non-musicians compared to brains of pianists are more efficient at making skilled movements. Dr. Frank Wilson research at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco, reveals how instrumental practice enhances coordination, concentration and memory and also brings about the improvement of eyesight and hearing. His studies have show that involvement in music connects and develops the motor systems of the brain, enhancing the entire neurological system in ways that cannot be done by any other activity. Dr. Wilson believes that music instruction is actually 'necessary' for the total development of developing brain. So, does Mozart help growing children? Based on the research, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to teach your children an instrument from a young age. Numerous research seems to prove that the brain does develop in most areas thicker, stronger, and faster. So yes, it does. Go Musicians!

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