Recently there has been an influx of popular articles about music’s influence in our lives. This is great news, demonstrating that there is an increased curiosity linking the clinical research that has been done in the past 10 years, into a common everyday interest and inquiry. These popular articles are most often written about music and the brain. Their efforts most certainly reflect an attempt to help explain the scientific research in the clinical field. These articles can be advantageous to help spread the word of the music and brain connection. Because the field of NMT is continuing to grow, these very well written articles often don’t mention our field as application of these principles.
An article in the Washington Post discusses how music enhances and strengthens brain development in children. The author explores research done by the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Their research examined brain scans of healthy children (232 total) from ages 6 to 18. Their purpose was to analyze brain development for children that played a musical instrument.
For the children that played a musical instrument, “it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management, and emotional control.” This research focused on positive factors that contribute to healthy development in children. James Hudziak, a professor of psychiatry at this university, states that the brain can be trained and strengthened, most effectively by music. It is important to note that all children within the study were typically developing children. However, this also has implications for non-typically developing children and the damaged brain as well.
This article perfectly outlines the possibilities of what music training can do to the developing brain. It echoes the immense role that Neurologic Music Therapy can play clinically. Similar to the muscles in our bodies, our brains can become weakened by an event or by unhealthy behaviors. Our brains, much like muscles in the body, can be retrained and strengthened. The human brain has plasticity; it is adaptable and malleable.
Research has shown that music’s all compassing engagement of the brain demonstrates the power of music experiences on development. Gottfried Schlaug, a pioneering neurologist and researcher, has studied how music experiences change the physical development of the brain. One study by Gaser and Schlaug (2003) found that professional keyboard players had more gray matter in brain regions than both non-musicians and even amateur musicians. Another part of the brain, the arcuate fasciculus, is thicker in professional singers than in non-musicians. This part of the brain is correlated as one of the regions we perceive and produce sound (Halwani, Loui, Ruber, & Schlaug, 2011). Music experiences, like playing an instrument as stated in this article, can change the morphology of the brain.
As James Hudziak stated, “we shouldn’t be surprised we can train the brain.” That’s because we absolutely can with Neurologic Music Therapy. Music experiences can strengthen regions of the brain for healthy individuals. Research has shown that not only is that true, but music can rewire and retrain the injured brain. Pathways in areas that have been damaged due to neurologic condition or disease can be re-circuited because the brain is malleable with music as the tool. NMT interventions are clinically based and were developed to strengthen the injured brain in cognitive, sensorimotor, and speech language domains. Not only can music lessons spur emotional and behavioral growth during development like this article states, but also, music is the instrument that can literally engage, change, and retrain the brain through Neurologic Music Therapy. #MusicItsScience #NMT
By: Steph Mathioudakis, MedRhythms Blogger
Gaser, C., & Schlaug, G. (2003). Brain structures differ between musicians and non-musicians. The Journal of Neuroscience, 23(27), 9240-9245.
Halwani, G.F., Loui, P, Ruber, T, Schlaug, G. (2011) Effects of practice and experience on the arcuate fasciculus: Comparing singers, instrumentalists, and non-musicians. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 1-9.