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Experiential Learning

The Influence of Music on The Brain and Cognitive Skills

Kruti Beesam

Wonder why alphabets are taught as a rhyme?

Maybe because it was easy to remember or teachers probably always knew the positive effect music had on our memory and cognition! In today’s blog, we’ll explore an interesting connection between music and cognitive skills.

What does music do to the brain?  

Listening to music while studying lowers your blood pressure and calms your mind. It creates neural pathways in the brain, especially on the corpus callosum — a tissue that bridges the right and left hemispheres of the brain to enhance cognition.

The popular ‘Mozart Effect’ is an experiment where participants were exposed to music after which their cognitive abilities were found to be enhanced. However, the inability to recreate this experiment led behavioural scientists to conclude that listening to music produces an emotional response and lightens the mood, which in turn improves cognition. According to Harvard Medical School neurologist and psychiatrist David Silbersweig listening to music activates the temporal lobe (recognising pitch and tone), cerebellum (processing rhyme, timing and physical movement) amygdala and hippocampus (responsible for memory and emotions) at once. 

Learning music has a long-term impact 

While listening to music helps improve your working memory, learning to play an instrument helps your long-term memory. It increases grey matter leading to better memory, focus and span of attention than those who are not trained in music. A study at the University of Helsinki in 2018, confirmed this after testing 66 children, aged six and above over a period of two years. It was found that children who learnt music grasped languages faster than those who did not.  The neural changes that music creates in a child’s brain is retained in adulthood as well.

Music boosts productivity and creativity

Music boosts productivity and creativity too. It beats monotony by helping recognise familiar patterns and helping you get through them faster. Your favourite music helps you eliminate boredom from familiar tasks and makes them enjoyable. This is confirmed by a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience of Behaviour and Physiology. It improves creativity by keeping Monday blues at bay, providing motivation through the tone, tempo and lyrics of the songs and increasing the speed of your work.

Early music association is better

The earlier a child is introduced to music, the greater is its benefit. Psychologists at Concordia University conducted a study to understand motor skill development in children and they found that children who started any musical training between the ages three to seven had better motor skills than those who started later. Why does age matter? Learning to play an instrument causes a permanent change to the brain that facilitates better motor skills in children. The ability to acquire new skills easily decreases as age increases. So, identify your child’s interest and start music education at the earliest.

Music helps learners with dyslexia and ADHD

Not all learners are the same. When you can’t apply the one-size-fits-all concept, music intervenes to make the learning process easy. A study at Harvard University discovered that the language-related limitations found in dyslexic learners are alleviated when music is introduced into the learning process. Kinesthetic learning is most suitable for students with ADHD. But this isn’t possible in a classroom set up. Music solves this problem to an extent by helping kinesthetic learners confine their attention.

Now that you know the powerful and positive impact music can have on cognitive skills, take advantage and allow music to enhance your classroom. How would you adapt music into today’s pedagogy? Let us know in the comments below!

Kruti Beesam
Kruti Beesam

Kruti enjoys blogging and listening to music. She actively tries to sensitise people towards disabilities and create awareness about the need for wheelchair friendly infrastructure. Being a foodie, Kruti looks forward to meeting new people and sharing a good meal with them.

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