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Music is Good for Your Brain!

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It may be of interest to students, parents of young children and anyone interested in improving their intellectual capabilities, that making music is known to improve mental acuity. It is well documented that music lessons, which develop motor, visual and auditory skills have a positive impact on reading skills. Basically, our brains work by forging a network of links or pathways from one part of the brain to another, and just like pathways, they widen and strengthen as they are used more, until they become more like roads, and then motorways! Our ability to form these pathways is called neuroplasticity. One of the best ways to increase the brain's neuroplasticity is to learn to play an instrument, or participate in singing. This is because learning an instrument forces your brain to think in a different way, and thus it forms new pathways. (This is much the same principal as that upon which the Brain Training Software is built). Learning an instrument literally improves your ability to think. There is a substantial body of evidence to suggest that participating in music making, as well as listening to music, stimulates creativity and conditions the brain to think more efficiently in general. For example, children exposed to musical training are proven to be far better at problem solving than their non-musical peers and have been shown to have an astonishing 80% greater spatial intelligence, according to some studies. One study also showed that pre-school children taught with song and games have an IQ of 10 20 points higher than children taught without song, and show far better reading and math scores by the age of 15. What more encouragement do you need to send your children off to music lessons, or to campaign for more music in schools? Better yet, these findings do not only apply to children; adults show similar improvements, after a period of time, when learning to sing or play an instrument. These activities not only keep the brain active, but also encourage new brain function. Singing lessons have also been shown to be highly effective in helping adults with brain damage, helping the individuals to re-form their damaged or broken neural pathways. Add to this the feel good factor that is inherent in making music, and it becomes a matter of some wonder that music lessons are not prescribed by law! There is a considerable body of research (Lozanov and Gatava) suggesting that accelerated learning can be optimised via the use of music rich in stringed instruments, played at 64bpm. Their experiments showed that students were able to take in huge quantities of information in a very short period of time, when these musical criteria were fulfilled. The inference is that we would all do well to have string-rich, slow-paced classical music playing when we are working, or trying to focus on a project or learn a new piece of information quickly. What have you got to lose? It's certainly worth a try, and strongly backed by scientific data. At VIDLA, we train singers to become effective singing teachers. How nice it must be for those teachers-in-training to know that they will be doing so much more for their students than 'just' teaching them good vocal habits. They'll be re-wiring their brains too. The over-riding message? Music: it's all good. This essay first published August 18, 2009 on The Modern Vocalist.com the Internet's #1 community for vocal professionals, voice health practitioners and pro-audio companies worldwide since November 2008.


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