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Exposure To Music Is Instrumental To The Brain

Building upon the pioneering work of Dr. Frances Rauscher, psychologist at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, a recent study at the University of Munster in Germany revealed that practicing the piano in early childhood expands the mind, literally altering the anatomy of the brain. In the study, conducted by Drs. Christo Pantev, Larry Roberts and Almut Engelien, researchers examined images of the auditory brain regions of 20 trained musicians and 13 non-musicians, all of whom were in their 20's. The musicians had played instruments for 15 to 21 years and now practiced 10 to 40 hours a week. When piano notes were played to both groups, the response to the piano sounds was 25 percent higher in the musician group. But when the same frequencies were heard as beeps rather than as piano notes, the two groups' brains looked the same. The study also concluded that the younger the musicians were when they began their musical training, the larger their areas of brain activity. The increased response to piano tones was the same in those who played piano, woodwinds or stringed instruments; although most of the musicians said they had received early piano training. According to Dr. Rauscher, musical training, specifically piano instruction appears to dramatically enhance a child's abstract thinking skills and spatial-temporal ability – skills necessary for mathematics and science – even more than computer instruction does. The combination of these scientific findings, plus ongoing research into the field, continues to point to one conclusion: music has an obvious impact on the brain and should be supported and encouraged in early childhood education.

Music has always been a puzzle in that, although it is found in every culture, its biological role is not obvious. Modern research tends to confirm the theory that music originates from mother-infant exchanges which, though they are verbal, depend on rhythm, variable pitch, tone of voice, and other aspects of emotional expressiveness. These programmes show how soon infants can perceive, remember, and recognise musical structures. There is increasing evidence that exposure to music does facilitate neuronal connections within the brain, which may increase the capacity for recognising patterns in the external world and even the power of abstract reasoning. Music enhances every aspect of our functioning because it presents us with a paradigm for making sense of our experience.
Source: The British Medical Journal, Anthony Storr, Oxford Health Authority

The Mozart Effect surfaced when research uncovered that adults who listened to music of complexity for ten minutes or so experienced temporary increases in their spatial IQ scores.
Source: Frances Rauscher, Ph.D.,Gordon Shaw, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine,1993-1994

The music that makes the foot tap, the fingers snap and the pulse quicken stirs the brain at its most fundamental levels, suggesting that scientists one day may be able to help damaged minds by exploiting rhythm, harmony and melody, according to new research presented Sunday (November 1998). Exploring the neurobiology of music, researchers discovered direct evidence that music stimulates specific regions of the brain responsible for memory, motor control, timing and language.  For the first time, researchers also have located specific areas of mental activity linked to emotional responses to music.  The latest findings, presented at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Los Angeles, underscore how music--as an almost universal language of mood, emotion and desire--orchestrates a wide variety of neural systems to cast its evocative spell.  "Undeniably, there is a biology of music," said Harvard University Medical School neurobiologist Mark Jude Tramo.  "There is no question that there is specialization within the human brain for the processing of music.  Music is biologically part of human life, just as music is aesthetically part of human life."  Overall, music seems to involve the brain at almost every level.  Even allowing for cultural differences in musical tastes, the researchers found evidence of music's remarkable power to affect neural activity no matter where they look in the brain, from primitive regions in all animals to more recently evolved regions thought to be distinctively human.  The brain comes alive to the sound of music and this finding offers hope for a variety of cures.
Source: Excerpt from Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1998 (Reprinted in the Sacramento Bee)


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