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Music Training can remodel the brainstem and improve learning

New research out of Northwestern University’s Neuroscience Laboratory drastically changes our understanding of the brain.

The study, to appear in the April issue of Nature Neuroscience reveals that musical training not only alters the wiring of the cortex of the brain but also the brainstem.

Classical neuroscience teaches that the brainstem (the very
bottom portion of the brain that attaches to the spinal cord) is
basically a fixed and unchanging structure. This study clearly
indicates otherwise.

Additionally, the study also shows that children exposed to musical training have better equipped auditory processing for speech sounds. Nina Kraus, senior author of the study notes:

Increasing music experience appears to benefit all children — whether musically exceptional or not — in a wide range of learning activities. Our findings underscore the pervasive impact of musical training on neurological development. Yet music classes are often among the first
to be cut when school budgets get tight. That’s a mistake

Interestingly, the team at Northwestern has found in previous research that some learning disabled children have abnormalities in their brainstem that lead to impaired processing of sound and that furthermore these deficits can be improved with auditory training.

"We’ve found that by playing music — an action thought of as a function of the neocortex — a person may actually be tuning the brainstem," says Kraus. "This suggests that the relationship between the brainstem and neocortex is a dynamic and reciprocal one and tells
us that our basic sensory circuitry is more malleable than we previously thought."

For a related Smartkit article discussing the beneficial effect of music on brain power, click here. If you’d like to try to temporarily increase your spatial-temporal IQ, click here to listen to Mozart’s Sonata for two pianos K448.

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