Musically educated children show improved performance in the areas of attention and memory, according to the results of a new study involving researchers from the Universidad del Desarrollo, Santiago. The study was published in the English language journal “Frontiers in Neuroscience”.
Learning an instrument appears to be beneficial for the brain and is associated with improved attention and memory performance in musically educated children. This argues in favor of providing all children with a musical education.
For the study, the attention and working memory of 40 Chilean children aged ten to thirteen years were analyzed. Twenty of them played an instrument, had received musical instruction for at least two years, practiced for at least two hours a week and played regularly in an orchestra or ensemble.
Half of the children had musical education
The remaining twenty children formed the control group. These children were recruited from public schools in Santiago and had received no other musical education than that provided for in the school curriculum.
Attention and working memory were assessed on the basis of specific tasks. During these tasks the brain activity of the children was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The researchers noticed small changes in blood flow in the brain. There was no difference in reaction time between the two groups. However, musically educated children scored significantly better on the memory task, reports Frontiers in Neuroscience magazine on the study results.
Musically trained children showed better attention and memory performance and higher activation in brain regions related to attention control and auditory coding. It is known that executive functions are associated with improved reading, higher resilience, greater creativity and a better quality of life, the researchers report. The experts assume that musical training increases the functional activity of the affected brain networks.
The next step of the project is to determine the causality of the mechanisms identified to improve attention and working memory. The research group aims to conduct a longitudinal study on musical training in children, assessing attention and working memory. The possibility of musical education for intervention in children with ADHD will also be investigated.
Advantages of musically educated children
The researchers recommend that children also receive musical education. Not only because positive effects on cognitive functions are possible, but rather because it is a challenging activity that is fun and offers the opportunity to learn the universal language of music, the experts add. (as)
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