Mrs. Larsen’s Third Grade

Connecting the Home and the Classroom

Music and the Mind

Research on Music’s Effect on the Brain

Developing “neural circuits” or pathways of synaptic response which causes and retains learning
         “Last October researchers at the University of Konstanz in Germany reported that exposure to music rewires neural circuits. In the brains of nine string players examined with magnetic resonance imaging, the amount of somato-sensory cortex dedicated to the thumb and fifth finger of the left hand – the fingering digits -was significantly larger than in non players. How long the players practiced each day did not affect the cortical map. But the age at which they had been introduced to their muse did. “           

         The younger the child when (he or) she took up the instrument, the more cortex (he or she) devoted to playing it. Like other circuits formed early in life, the ones for music endure.

      Wayne State’s Chugani played the guitar as a child, then gave it up. A few years ago he started taking piano lessons with his young daughter. She learned easily but he couldn’t get his fingers to follow his wishes.    Yet when Chugani recently picked up a guitar, he found to his delight that “the songs are still there,” much like the muscle memory for riding a bicycle”.               

           The musical Brain: Learning window 3 to 19 years. What we know: String players have a larger area of their sensory cortex dedicated to the fingering digits on their left hand. Few concert-level performers begin playing later than the age of 10. It is much harder to learn an instrument as an adult.          

               What we can do about it: Sing songs with children. Play structured, melodic music. If a child shows any musical aptitude or interest, get an instrument into (his or) her hand early.  

NEWSWEEK, February 19,1996 pages 57-61

Arts Students Continue to Score Higher on SAT
               Students of music and the other arts continue to outperform their non-arts peers on the SAT, according to reports by the College Entrance Examination Board. As a whole, in 1995, SAT-takers with coursework or experience in music performance scored 51 points higher on the verbal portion of the test, and 39 points higher on the math portion, as compared to students no coursework or experience in in the arts.              

             Scores for those with coursework in music appreciation were 61 points higher on the verbal and 46 points higher on the math portion. And longer arts study means higher SAT scores: in 1990, those who had studied the arts four or more years scored 59 points higher on the verbal and 44 points higher on the math portion, than students with no coursework or experience in the arts.

            To compare the scores below with data from 1990-1992, see Teaching Music, Aug. 1994, p.8. Data for these reports were gathered by the College Board at the time the SAT was given. For more information, contact Gail Crum, MENC information services, at 800-336-3768.

                Rosalie Pratt says: “There appears to be an influence on learning because of music” There are definite physiological effects on the body such as heart beat, muscle tension, skin temperature and EMGs.” Mozart appears to have some of the greatest influence because of the structure.

BYU Daily Universe 48-96 page 20.

Spatial IQ
            Music lessons have been shown to improve child’s performance in school. After eight months of keyboard lessons, preschoolers tested showed a 46% boost in their spatial IQ, which is crucial for higher brain functions such as complex mathematics.

Frances Rauscher, Ph.D., Gordon Shaw, PhD, University of California, Irvine. National Coalition for Music Education

Abstract Reasoning
     Univ of California, Irvine, 36 people took standardized intelligence tests after three 10 minute periods of Mozart. Those who listened to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos (K448) scored an average 119 – eight points higher than those who listened to a relaxation tape and nine points higher than those who listened to silence. Mozart’s music is quite complex and very patterned said neurobiologist Frances H Rauscher, the study’s lead author. Rauscher said the complex music may “prime” the brain for mathematics or other analytical work because it triggers the same brain activity.

             “We predict that music lacking complexity or which is repetitive may interfere with rather than enhance abstract reasoning,” the researchers said in the journal Nature.

UPI, Deseret News Oct 14 1993 Entire study documented in Nature Vol 365 14 October 1993.

Psychology Today July/August 1993 cites Irvine study and says Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik put people in that “mathy” fame of mind. Mozart’s musical passages repeat themselves in a very logical and rhythmic way.

Effects of different kinds of music on mice
               Suffolk, Va., high school student David Merrell finished first in regional and state science fairs by demonstrating the effects of music on lab mice. After the mice ran through a maze in about 10 minutes, Merrell played classical music to one group and heavy metal to another for 10 hours a day. After three weeks, the mice exposed to classical music made it through the maze in a minute and a half. The rock music group took 30 minutes.

             Said Merrell: “I had to cut my project short because all the hard-rock mice killed each other. None of the classical mice did that.”

Music is one of the seven forms of human intelligence
        Music is everywhere – In bird song and in bubbling brooks and in laughter, even in the stars. Music is the universal language that transcends time and space. Music is one of the SEVEN FORMS OF HUMAN INTELLIGENCE, all equal in stature and in potential. And yet education – as is – is almost totally geared to nurturing linguistic and logical – mathematical abilities alone, leaving the other five forms – including music – neglected.  At elementary school level more than half of all school districts in the United States have no full-time music teacher.

          And thus our schools tend to refine intellects but neglect to discipline emotions. And undisciplined emotions keep getting us into trouble. The ugliest headlines are about somebody who may have been smart as all get-out, smart enough to be a bank executive or a politician or a scientist. But if emotionally colorblind, he’s an unguided missile inevitably destined to self-destruct. 

          Without the arts- including music-we risk graduating young people who are “right brain damaged.” For anyone to grow up complete, music education is imperative. Case histories on file with the National Commission on Music Education uncover exciting correlation between the study of music an such critical work-place performance factors as self-esteem, self discipline, the ability to work in groups and higher cognitive and analytical skill. Music in schools, what little there is, is considered ancillary to “real education,” as something of a “curricular icing.” If it is to be reestablished as basic to education, as fundamental to being “an educated person,” then educators and performers, composers and publishers-and those non-music-related industries-must close ranks to restore educational balance in schools.

         The National Commission on Music Education is such a coalition. Already, in its first year, it has won the support of 75 national organizations, willing, under a slogan of “Let’s Make Music,” to work together toward the musical enrichment of public schools’ curricula. How does one plausibly argue for spending school money on music when we are graduating illiterates? Should we not be putting all our emphasis on reading, writing and math? The “back-to-basics curricula,” while it has merit, ignores the most urgent void in our present system – absence of self-discipline. The arts, inspiring – indeed requiring- self discipline, may be more “basic” to our national survival than traditional credit courses. Presently we are spending 29 times more in science than on the arts, and the result so far is worldwide intellectual embarrassment.


           Anthony De Casper of the University of North Carolina has shown that fetuses store in their memories complex songs that are sung to them daily during the last trimester. After delivery, babies respond with increased attention to these familiar songs.

The Times-Picayune 3/13/95

     “What the hospitals have noticed, says Woodford, is that restless babies, even some babies in pain following surgery, will nod off to sleep, sometimes as soon as the tape is turned on. Hospitals are not generally the most comforting of places, notes Woodford. There are too many frightful procedures, too many strangers, too many alarms and beepers and TV sets, all creating a “Startle effect.”

      But lullabies and heartbeats are calming, even in the worst of situations, he says. More than 30, 000 of the tapes have been stolen from US hospitals since they were first introduced seven years ago, says Woodford, who now has begun selling the tapes at selected stores, including J.C. Penney stores in Utah. More than 4, 500 hospital and care facilities are now using the tapes. Nursing homes, he says, have found them helpful in calming down Alzheimer’s patients.”

Elaine Jarvik, Deseret News.

Pain relief
        Half an hour of music produced the same effect as 10 milligrams of Valium …

Critical care unit of Baltimore‘s St. Agnes Hospital. Aspire, Lisa Dionne, April 1995.

Stress reduction
     The US Senate hearing on the effects of music on the health of the elderly in 1991, more doctors believe that certain types of music reduce stress and decrease healing time and the need for prescription medication. Music is being used to treat everyone from Alzheimer’s patients to premature newborns to prisoners. Music is a tool in the treatment and prevention of diseases, mental illness and physical disabilities.

Maude Blair, Sacramento Bee July 26, 1995 G-1-3

       “The playing of baroque or classical music can arrest the symptoms of dyslexia at least long enough to allow the individual to utilize or express other interest or abilities which he might not be able to do otherwise. In essence, music formats the brain for success in other areas.

Contact: Carol: 2208 Carol Sue Ave, Terrytown, LA 70056  504-392-3299

DNA equivalent
          Dr. Susumu Ohno, a geneticist at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope in Duarte, California believes that the elements of nature have a unique series of organized identifying pitches. He assigned a musical pitch to the elements (do)Cytosine, (re mi) adenine, (fa sol)guanine (la ti) thymine, that exist in creatures, thereby making melodies. All creatures have different melodies. When played before professional musician, they believed them to be melodies created by Bach, Brahms, Chopin and other masters because of their intricacies and organization. Even cancer cells have their own “melodies.

The Body of Music Chapter 13 page 141 “Meaning and Medicine” Larry Dossey, MD (Bantam )

MUSIC AND THE MIND by Karen Lindell          

      AS YOU LISTEN to the not-so-melodic sounds of your child plunking away on the piano, remember that her musical education–wrong notes and all–is for a good cause. And we’re not just talking about a future as a concert pianist. Studies show that musical training can also make kids better readers and may boost their brainpower–especially when they get an early start.

         Robert Cutietta, Ph.D., head of music education at the University of Arizona and co-author of SPIN-OFFS: THE EXTRA-MUSICAL ADVANTAGES OF A MUSICAL EDUCATION (United Musical Instruments U.S.A., 1995), says research indicates that music instruction improves everything from foreign language skills to self-esteem. “But the strongest findings,” he says, “show that if a child is learning to read notes while learning to read words, word-reading improves.”

               Cutietta says evidence that music aids math abilities is not as conclusive. “There’s no doubt there’s a connection between math and music–kids in band, choir and orchestra do well in math,” he says. “But there’s not necessarily a causal relationship–it hasn’t been shown that playing in band makes you better in math.”

             However, a recent UC Irvine study may shed some light on how music can enhance math intelligence. The study involved three- and four-year-olds who received private piano lessons, private computer instruction or group singing lessons. Only the children learning to play the piano increased their spatial-temporal reasoning skills significantly, scoring 34 percent higher than the other students. Spatial-temporal reasoning, explains Gordon Shaw, Ph.D., professor of physics at UC Irvine and principal investigator for the study, is the ability to think ahead in space and time, a skill required for success in math, science and engineering.

           “There are two ways in which you reason,”says Shaw. “One is language-based; the other is the ability to see patterns and manipulate images. Learning sequences of musical patterns may be related to inherent structures in the brain,” he says. “Music plays an important role in tapping into the structure and patterning of the brain.” Shaw adds that although further study is needed, he believes that playing instruments other than the piano will also improve brain function. New research also indicates that singing uses similar mental skills.

             What do all these scientific findings mean for parents? Give kids an early start on music education, urges Cutietta. “Many schools don’t begin music instruction until the upper grades, so it’s up to parents,” he says. “If kids don’t start to use their musical aptitude, it will begin to fall away.” He suggests beginning with movement to music and singing at ages two and three, until kids are ready to start playing an instrument at age four, five or six.

             Cutietta also emphasizes the importance of listening to music to improve thinking. “Everybody hears music, but not everyone listens,” says Cutietta. “Get kids to focus on music. For example, say, ‘Listen to the bass line’; or ‘Listen to that voice and compare it to the drum.’ This can be done with any kind of music.”

               Shaw, who also conducted a study showing that college students temporarily increased their spatial IQ scores after listening to a Mozart sonata, agrees that early musical training is key–”and listening to a little Mozart wouldn’t hurt.”

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