VERMONT, Dec 25 ― Theories abound about the cognitive advantages of playing the piano or violin early in life, and recent research says it could also help children to focus, control their emotions and reduce their anxiety.
The findings indicate that playing music should be considered, among its other benefits, as an outlet to help children handle psychological disorders.
“We treat things that result from negative things, but we never try to use positive things as treatment,” says lead author James Hudziak, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families.
In what the research team calls “the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development,” 232 children ages 6 to 18 underwent MRI brain scans.
When assessing the scans, the team was interested in the images of the cortex, which is the outer layer of the brain.
As children grow older, patterns of cortical thickening and thinning can indicate levels of anxiety, depression, attention problems, aggression and behavior problems even in children without a diagnosis, according to prior research by lead author James Hudziak, MD.
With this new study, Dr. Hudziak’s goal was to see if musical training could alter these patterns and, indeed, results say it can.
Playing music alters the motor areas of the brain, which Dr. Hudziak says he expected due to the coordination it requires.
Most importantly, Dr. Hudziak found evidence from the scans that playing music changes the behavior-regulating areas of the brain, thickening the part of the cortex that controls executive functioning.
This area is responsible for working memory, attention control and organizational skills.
Another area in which musical training thickens the cortex is that which plays a critical role in inhibitory control and the processing of certain emotions, according to the study.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. ― AFP-Relaxnews
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