Music Grows Brain

Developing focus, executive function, emotional control and curbing anxiety

Music Grows Brain. Healthy Living Magazine

Music Grows Brain. Healthy Living Magazine

The cortex thickens with positive stimulation and learning but thins with stress, anxiety, depression and attention deficit.

75% of high school students rarely or never take lessons in music or arts beyond what is required to graduate.

Learning to play musical instruments isn’t just about music. It affects the way the brain grows and leads to greater intellectual development and mental energies but only if done early when the brain is plastic enough to be formed and nerve cells are dividing.

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In the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the effects went further: children who learn musical instruments grow the part of their brain that produces less anxiety and more emotional control and focus. Calling their work “the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development,” the study authors measured the brain’s cortical thickening (cortex growth), an indicator of developmental gain, in 232 kids, ages 6-18 from the National Institutes of Health MRI Study of Normal Brain Development.

how to thicken cortex

The outer layer of the brain, the cortex thickens with positive stimulation and learning but thins with stress, anxiety, depression and attention deficit issues even in undiagnosed kids.

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Learning to play an instrument requiring control and coordination lead to cortical thickening in areas of the brain related to executive functioning, inhibitory control and the processing of emotions including “working memory, attentional control as well as organization and planning for the future,” says the study.

Professor of psychiatry Dr James Hudziak advocates The Vermont Family Based Approach that asserts all parts of the child’s world affect the brain and psychological wellness—this includes friends, parents, teachers, activities.

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“Music is a critical component in my model,” says Dr Hudziak. “We treat things that result from negative things but we never try to use positive things as treatment.

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