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What parents need to know about children’s brains on music

27th January 2015

If you learned how to play a recorder or ukelele in school, you may have built up brain functions that boosted your ability to do better in school, especially if you kept up with practice.

Latest neuroscience studies by noted researcher Nina Kraus of Northwestern University suggest learning a musical instrument helps children boost their auditory processing, meaning they get better at things like communication and literacy skills.

It was only after two years, however, that the benefits of practicing became clear in a recent study, Kraus said at KPCC’s “Music and the Brain” event at the Crawford Family Forum Sunday.

Her research on music and the brain suggests children achieve big gains if they are actively learning to play an instrument, and not just listening to music.

Kraus’ study of students at Los Angeles’ Harmony Project, a nonprofit that provides music education to low-income youth, found the benefits didn’t come immediately for students who practiced in class five days a week.

“After two years, we were able to measure very fundamental, biological changes in auditory processing. So it really does take time,” she said.

Another tip from Kraus: to boost memory, have children listen to music they care about. She says our emotional connection to music helps improve auditory learning.

Read more on the SCPR website