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How music benefits the brain.

Music and the Brain


If you follow The Music Junction’s Facebook page, you may have known about a KPCC 89.3 event on music and the brain that had us excited. The event featured Nina Kraus of Northwestern University, whose work we have reported on here as well as Suzanne Gindin, founder of the Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra and Kristen Madsen, Senior Vice President, The GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares.


The event quickly filled to capacity but we were fortunate to see a video of the presentation, which we included above. Here are some of the important points that we wrote down:

  • Music and language overlap in many ways. “Music is a good model of auditory learning … It certainly makes sense that the learning of music might transfer to the learning, and just to be a better communicator through language,” Kraus said.


  • Kraus studied children in a music program who received five hours of instruction a week. There were no notable improvements after one year but after two years Kraus’ said her team was “able to measure very fundamental, biological changes to auditory processing.”


  • Research as not figured out the magic number (also known as the dosage effect) for the number of hours a student music complete in order to reap the benefits.


  • Rhythm is important for language as well as music.


  • Currently, music curriculum is based on music. Gindin wondered what if teachers based music curriculum on ways to make students better readers and learners such as a  stronger focus on steady beat and pitch differentiation? “Can you image the connections,” Gindin asked.


  • Playing in an orchestras or ensembles is one of the few activities where several people are “doing the same thing at once and you all have to agree,” Gindin said. “I think the process of doing that as group creates a sense of confidence.”


  • Music has a lasting impact on the brain. Kraus’ team found that older adults who stopped playing music years ago had faster neural timing in response to speech compared to those of the same age group who had not taken music lessons.


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