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Music helps children improve learning: Study

Washington: Advocating the introduction of music classes into school curriculum, a new research has claimed that learning to play musical instruments has positive effects on the brain and it helps children improve their learning and understanding of language.

The research, which is a review of several studies on the benefits of music, suggested that connections between brain cells are established during musical training that can aid in other forms of communication, such as speech, reading and understanding a foreign language.

"The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness," said the researchers, at the Northwestern University (NU) in Illinois, who carried out the review.

The studies, they said, showed that society should "re-examine the role of music in shaping individual development" and schools should consider boosting efforts to incorporate musical training into the curriculum, LiveScience reported.

The review by NU researchers Nina Kraus and Bharath Chandrasekaran pointed out that a musician`s ear must be particularly attuned to musical sounds, timing and quality.

Studies have shown such training leads to changes in the brain`s auditory system. For instance, pianists show more brain activity in their auditory cortex -- the part of the brain responsible for processing sounds -- than non-musicians in response to hearing piano notes.

Musicians also have larger brain volumes in areas important for playing a musical instrument, including motor and auditory regions, the researchers said.

They found that these advantages of music training appear to cross over to our understanding of speech.

Music and speech have quite a bit in common. They both use pitch and timing to get information across, and both require memory and attention skills to process, they said.

Some studies showed that children with musical training have more neural activity in response to changes in pitch during speech than those without such training.

An enhanced ability to detect changes in pitch might help musicians better judge emotion in speech or distinguish a statement from a question, the researchers said.

They also found that musically trained children have better vocabularies and reading abilities than children who don`t have this musical education.

"The musically trained may also fare better when learning a foreign language. Musicians are better able to put together sound patterns into words for a foreign language," the report said.

According to the review article, published in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience, musical training might help children with certain learning disorders, such as dyslexia, who are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of background noise.

"Music training seems to strengthen the same neural processes that often are deficient in individuals with developmental dyslexia or who have difficulty hearing speech in noise," the researchers said.

They added that studying the effects of music training in school-administered programmes could help scientists better understand its brain benefits.

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