Taking music lessons may not only make your kids smarter, but also enhance their emotional control, improve their memory and improve their long-term planning.
Researchers at the University of Vermont studied brain scans of 236 healhty children and found that training on an instrument directly correlated to better focus, better anxiety management and more emotional control.
Their findings, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, focused on the thickening of the cortex, which their earlier research had shown is linked to better control of depression, aggression and attention issues.
“What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument,” the study’s lead author, James Hudziak, told the Washington Post, “it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.” Hudziak is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families.
Doing something about the insight may be difficult. As the University of Vermont notes in a press statement, “Research from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that three-quarters of U.S. high school students ‘rarely or never’ take extracurricular lessons in music or the arts.”
“Such statistics, when taken in the context of our present neuroimaging results,” the authors write in the JAACAP study, “underscore the vital importance of finding new and innovative ways to make music training more widely available to youths, beginning in childhood.”
The study found that music training correlated to the thickness of the cortex area that controls “executive functioning, including working memory, attentional control, as well as organization and planning for the future.”
“In a previous study,” PsychCentral noted, ” the researchers found that cortical thickening or thinning in specific areas of the brain reflected the occurrence of anxiety and depression, attention problems, aggression and behavior control issues even in healthy kids.”
The 56-year-old Hudziak began taking viola lessons last year, the Post reported. “I had this passion for health promotion in children, it seemed silly not to do it myself,” he said.
Hudziak and the Vermont CCYF are no strangers to the use of music alongside holistic methods in therapy. The center works with a range of therapies, and treats the entire family and the child’s whole environment as the key to recovery.
“We use a family-based approach,” the center’s website states, “because all of the child psychopathologies are influenced by genetic factors, environmental factors and their interaction. Parental psychopathology can affect the environment in which that the child is raised.”