Brain Scientists Identify Close Links between Arts, Learning

By Ben Mauk
About Ben Mauk
May 14, 2009

Music training in childhood improves cognitive abilities, according to research presented May 6 at Johns Hopkins University’s “Learning, Arts, and the Brain” summit in Baltimore. The work presents the most significant evidence yet that arts education can improve learning.

A recent study found that children who receive music instruction for just 15 months show strengthened connections in musically relevant brain areas and perform better on associated tasks, compared with students who do not learn an instrument.

The result echoes those of other researchers who are tightening the links between the arts and cognition. Another study presented at the summit found that children who receive training to improve their focus and attention perform better not only on attention tasks but also on intelligence tests. Arts training might similarly affect a wide range of cognitive domains, say researchers.

“It’d be difficult to find another activity [besides music training] that takes up so much real estate in the brain,” said Gottfried Schlaug, a professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School and co-author of the music instruction study.

“Already the initial data we have show profound changes,” he said.

Educators and neuroscientists gathered recently at the Hopkins summit in Baltimore and the subsequent “Learning and the Brain” conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss the increasingly detailed picture of how arts education changes the brain, and how to translate that research to education policy and the classroom


From the Dana Fondation: Read the article here

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