HEADLINES Published August6, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Band Geeks Rejoice! Music Training Helps Your Brain

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A high school marching band on parade. Being in a band can help in hearing and language skills.
(Photo : Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images)

All you music geeks out there, hold up your instruments with pride (unless you play piano). A new study has found that music training helps improve the hearing and language skills of teens. Music instruction appears to help teens do better in school, according to researchers from Northwestern University.

The study evaluated 40 freshmen who attended high schools in low-income neighborhoods of Chicago. The participants were followed until their senior year. Nearly half participated in band classes at school that involved 2 to 3 hours each week of instruction in instrumental group music. The remainder of the students, who served as a control group, were enrolled in Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), an extracurricular group emphasized physical fitness and character development.

Over the course of 3 years, the study found that the brain's response to sound in the music students matured faster, and that they had a better sensitivity in their brains to the details of sounds.

All of the participants, both band and ROTC, showed improvements in language skills that are linked to the awareness of sound structure, but the improvement was greater among those in the music group than among those in the ROTC group.

These findings suggest that high school music training might boost brain development and improve language skills, the authors of the study concluded. "Our results support the notion that the adolescent brain remains receptive to training, underscoring the importance of enrichment during the teenage years."

Music programs are often the first areas of education to be cut when the school budget is tight because they are not part of a core curriculum. The findings from this study may show that music should play a role in the curriculum of high schools.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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