Music Apprenticeship Impacts Brain & Auditory Pathway Development

Neuroimaging techniques such as MRIs and electrophysiological monitoring (EEG) are used in combination with cognitive and behavioral testing to demonstrate how music training at a young age accelerates and enhances the intellectual and emotional development of children through maturation of the brain’s auditory pathway. Similar studies suggest brain size and development of underprivileged children lags behind their more affluent peers because lower income families lack the resources to provide the education and musical training necessary for these development opportunities.

How Income & Music Influence Brain Development

The auditory pathway is responsible for processing sound, speech perception, language development and reading skills. [Fig.1] [3]

Affluent families are able raise their children in a more “developmental environment” than lower income families allowing them to provide more benefits like nutritious meals and extracurricular activities, such as music lessons, than lower income familes are able to provide for their children. Neurologists have studied how income levels impact brain development differently in the children of high income families versus low income families and study results suggest there is a correlation between lower income and smaller brain size in children.

The lower the income level of the family, the smaller and less developed children’s regions of the brain appear to be which are responsible for language, reading, decision making, and memory. Though results are speculative, research suggests it is possible to reduce the disparities between income levels and improve developmental outcomes for lower income children by providing their families with resources such as community help and education. [8]

Impact of Music Apprenticeship onto early Brain Development — Music and the Auditory Pathway (Credit: teachmeanatomy.info)

The auditory pathway is responsible for processing sound, speech perception, language development and reading skills. [Fig.1] [3]

USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute

The Brain and Music Program within USC’s Brain and Creativity Institute has undertaken a 5-year research study in partnership with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in order to better understand how enrolling underprivileged youth in group music lessons may positively impact their brain development. Preliminary results of neuroimaging, cognitive, and behavioral testing indicate that the children who are enrolled in the group music lessons already show signs of accelerated brain maturity in the auditory systems of their brains, which increases brain efficiency. Results of the musically trained group more favorable than both the control group and another group of their peers who were enrolled in soccer lessons. [4] [10]

The Auditory Pathway & Neuroimaging

Music and the Auditory Pathway | MRI Scan {Credit: phovoir / Envato}

Fig 2. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the brain is a safe and painless test that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain and the brain stem. [11]

Electroencephalography (EEG) measures how music lessons change the developing auditory pathway {Credit: medicalxpress.com}

Fig 3. Electroencephalography (EEG) is used to measure the children’s developing auditory pathways. It records electrical activity of the brain by tracking and recording brain wave patterns. [12]

Music’s Influence Social & Emotional Development

Neuroscience researcher Nina Kraus explains that learning a musical instrument could lead to improved communication and literary skills in children because it boosts their auditory pathway processing. The children undertaking music lessons developed finer motor skills and were able to discern pitch changes in musical tones and melodies better than their peers, which suggests they are more accurately processing sounds. Researchers argue this skill could translate to increased emotional intelligence via an increased ability to discern subtle changes in speech annotation in others, such as when recognizing a change in tone that indicates sarcasm. [9] [1] [5]

Music’s Ability to Cause the Chills

Researchers have used similar neuroimaging techniques with cognitive and behavioral testing techniques in an effort to better understand why listening to music can cause physical “chills” in some people. Theories suggest these people have a higher volume of fibers connecting their auditory cortex to areas of the brain associated with emotions and feeling, which allows more efficient processing between the regions, thus evoking more profound emotional responses to music. [2] [6] [7]

Research Promotes Music Education

Music lessons impacts the auditory pathway and brain development of children {Credit: bialasiewicz / Envato} As public school budgets have reduced, schools often respond by dropping art and music classes from the curriculum to help address a lack of resources. A 2014 study conducted by KPCC Member Supported News for Southern California concluded that only 28% of participating Southern California school districts reported providing musical instruction to more than 80% of their elementary school students each year. [Fig 4.][9]

A growing body of neuroscience based research suggests there is an urgent need to re-evaluate educational policies towards offering art and music based programs in elementary schools. All children should have access to developmentally beneficial music training, regardless of income level or socioeconomic status.

Image Credit

References

  1. Music training can change children’s brain structure and boost decision-making network [2017.11.13. Emily Gersema. USC News]
  2. If you get the chills from music, you may have a unique brain [2017.02.08. Joanna Clay. USC News]
  3. Music is Instrumental for Accelerating Brain Development [2016. Emily Gersema. USC]
  4. Researchers find that children’s brains develop faster with music training [2016.07.01. Emily Gersema. USC]
  5. Children’s brains develop faster with music training [2016.06.20. Emily Gersema. USC News]
  6. Why Do Some Songs Give You The Chills? [2016.06.17. Popular Science]
  7. Breakthrough in understanding the chills and thrills of musical rapture: Neuroscience [2016.06.16. Ian Sample. The Guardian]
  8. Poorer children ‘have smaller brains’, researchers say [2015.03.31. BBC News]
  9. USC study showing auditory gains for orchestra students: Education [2015.03.12. Mary Plummer. 89.3 KPCC Member Supported News for Southern California]
  10. Tracking the Evolving Brain of the Young Musician: Education [2015.03.12. Tom Jacobs. Pacific Standard]
  11. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) [2018. Kids Health.org]
  12. EEG (electroencephalogram) [2018. KidsHealth.org]

Lisa Luther is a contributing author and coder who works with the Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Lisa has 9 years of experience working in biotech on strategic businesses initiatives and in the Program Management Office, where she facilitated the development of innovative combination biologic drug/electromechanical medical device products. Lisa is a Six Sigma greenbelt and holds a MBA degree.

Lisa Luther is a contributing author and coder who works with the Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Lisa has 9 years of experience working in biotech on strategic businesses initiatives and in the Program Management Office, where she facilitated the development of innovative combination biologic drug/electromechanical medical device products. Lisa is a Six Sigma greenbelt and holds a MBA degree.

Lisa Luther is a contributing author and coder who works with the Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Lisa has 9 years of experience working in biotech on strategic businesses initiatives and in the Program Management Office, where she facilitated the development of innovative combination biologic drug/electromechanical medical device products. Lisa is a Six Sigma greenbelt and holds a MBA degree.

Lisa Luther is a contributing author and coder who works with the Michelson Medical Research Foundation. Lisa has 9 years of experience working in biotech on strategic businesses initiatives and in the Program Management Office, where she facilitated the development of innovative combination biologic drug/electromechanical medical device products. Lisa is a Six Sigma greenbelt and holds a MBA degree.


The Michelson Medical Research Foundation's Groundwork blog is brought to you thanks to the generous support of Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson.

The Michelson Medical Research Foundation's Groundwork blog is brought to you thanks to the generous support of Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson.

The Michelson Medical Research Foundation's Groundwork blog is brought to you thanks to the generous support of Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson.

The Michelson Medical Research Foundation's Groundwork blog is brought to you thanks to the generous support of Dr. Gary K. Michelson and his wife, Alya Michelson.