Playing Music is Good for Our Brain

What do Brian May and Tom Scholz have in common? The obvious answer for many classic rock fans is that they are both great guitarists. Brian May  of the music group Queen, is considered one of the world’s best lead guitarists. Tom Scholz was the lead guitarist and brainchild of the band Boston.

However what many do not know is that both of these musicians are university scholars. Brian May; after a 30-year break pursuing his musical career, returned to Imperial College, London, to complete his Doctoral Thesis in Astrophysics on Interplanetary Dust. He currently holds a doctoral degree in Astrophysics. Tom Sholz holds a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In fact,  he worked for Polaroid many years and was involved with the development of the Polaroid instant cameras.

I am sure there are many more accomplished musicians out there who have had success in post secondary education as well.  Is it a coincidence? I do not think so. In fact, a recent study has suggested what many had suspected.  That is music training and playing may boost overall brain power.  A study at the Northwestern University published in the Journal Nature, linked the skills of musical training to improving language, speech, memory and attention. Previous studies had suggested that music playing was also helpful in developing mathematical skills.  In addition, there are a number of studies that suggest  that students who participate in  formal music education have higher academic achievement scores than students who do not participate in formal music education.

I was intrigued by this latest study and so I did some research and found a review article on this topic by Donald A. Hodges and Debra S. O’Connell of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I have summarized some of their conclusions:

  • Being excused from non-music classes to attend instrumental lessons does not adversely affect academic performance.
  • One study examined the relationship between enrollment in music performance classes and athletic extracurricular activities on academic achievement.  Musicians showed a tendency to maintain stabilized grades while the athletes and non-participants groups’ grades dropped.
  • High school seniors who had participated in instrumental music programs from sixth through 12th grades scored significantly higher on tests of language, arts and math than their counterparts who had participated in non-music extra-curricular activities or who had not participated in extra-curricular activities.
  • In another study of grade five students, keyboard students outperformed their counterparts on total language, 3 R’s battery, concept of numbers, math computations, math applications, and total math.
  • Still, another study showed a positive relationship between playing in the high school concert band  and SAT scores
  • Finally, a significant relationship was between the sight-reading achievement of instrumental music students and reading and math achievement and GPA(grade point average).

So we know that music is good for our physical health, but playing music is also good for our minds…..Enjoy!!

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Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.