Researchers from Northwestern University have suggested that training high school children to learn music can significantly improve the teenagers’ hearing and language skills, as well as responses to sound. Recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study demonstrates that music training enhances particular skills required for academic success.

Finding The Connection: Music Improve Brain Function

Developing stable sound skills requires processing of sound and its details. This phenomenon is seen to be diminished in poverty-stricken children, which raises the possibility that providing such children with music education might reduce the onset of this negative occurrence.

Nina Kraus, the study’s senior author and Director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at the School of Communication, along with her colleagues enrolled 40 high school freshmen from within the Chicago area. They experimentation began shortly prior to their going to school. For collecting valuable data, these students were followed in a longitudinal study design up to their senior year.

The students, all belonging to similar schools in a low-income neighborhood, were divided into two groups. Almost half of the participants had enrolled in band classes – instrumental group music instruction two to three hours per week. The remaining had enrolled in junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), which focused more on fitness exercises for a comparable period. Electrodes were used to measure brain activity – at the beginning of the study and after three years.

Study Revealed: Music Training Can Help Sharpen Your Brain

Analysis of the electrode recordings revealed that the participants that enrolled in music training group demonstrated enhanced maturation in brain’s responses to sound. Moreover, the sensitivity of their brains to decipher minor details in sound was heightened. Even though all the study participants showed improved language skills associated with sound-structure awareness, the latter was seen to be highest in the children who received music training.

Kraus commented that music programs were usually cut because of budget constraints etc, but the results of the study highlighted the importance of such exercises in a high school curriculum. She added that even though music training did not directly teach the students any career-based skills, the study indicated that in-school training techniques help improve neurodevelopment and language skills.

“Our results support the idea that the adolescent brain remains receptive to training, underscoring the importance of enrichment during the teenage years”, concluded the authors.