The benefits of music are widely appreciated today. Music truly accompanies us in our day to day activities and is with us during the different stages of our lives. Even our bodies naturally respond to music involuntarily.

Benefits of music lessons

Music lessons have been found to be beneficial in the developmental stages of children as well as contributing to improved performance in academics. We have even heard of scientists that have attributed their success to music. An example is Dr. Thomas Sudhof, who in an interview with Empowered Doctor, attributed his success in the scientific world to the skills he acquired during his childhood music classes.

New Study

A new study has now found that music lessons could be the best intervention in brain development. Music lessons are understood to help children with learning disorders, but Dr. Pilar Dies-Suarez wanted to dig deeper into this matter. This is how the study was conducted:

The researchers from the Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez in Mexico City looked at 23 healthy children between five and six years of age who hadn’t taken any lessons before.

Each child was given a brain scan, using something known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) – an advanced MRI technique which scans the brain’s white matter.

White matter is made up of millions of nerve fibres called axons, which connect the parts of the brain together. Via CTV News

DTI Scan

To better understand the tests that Dr. Pilar and the team were carrying out on these children, an explanation of what a DTI scan is given below:

DTI scanning measures the movement of water molecules along the axons, which can point out if the child has brain development issues or not.

As a child grows and their brain matures, connections between areas of the brain improve and the movement of water molecules increases. Via CTV News


music enables girl to speak
Image Courtesy of Flickr

The Underlying Reason for Learning Disorders

When it comes to children with learning disorders, what causes them to be as they are is hidden in the white matter of their brain.

Previous research has linked autism and ADHD with a decrease in fibre connections and in the movement of water molecules. Via CTV News

The Findings

Dr. Pilar’s team discovered that exposure to musical training advanced the brains of these children in the critical areas that are mostly affected when learning disorders occur in children.

After nine months of musical training the children were scanned again and the scans showed improvements in the movement of water molecules along the axons as well as the length of the axon themselves. In other words, the connections between the different parts of the brain grew stronger.

The researchers saw a marked improvement in the area of the brain known as the minor forceps, which is particularly underdeveloped in children with autism and ADHD. Via CTV News

What is it about Music?

Julianne Innamorato, of The Centre for Neurological and Neurodevelopmental Health (CNNH), explains the reasons why music therapy works for neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders as follows:

Music affects the brain

The fact that music stimulates the brain in multiple places makes it effective in treating the disorders that occur in the brain:

…music directly affects our senses, making it a multi-sensory experience, involving the auditory, visual, and tactile senses. As a result, music can have a direct impact on an individual’s physical, emotional, and cognitive functioning. Via CNNH

In addition to being a multi-sensory experience, music also enhances brain health:

Neurologic music therapy has shown to be an effective treatment for individuals with neurological disorders because research has shown that music enhances neuroplasticity in the brain. Neuroplasticity refers to the natural ability of our brain to change, the ability for it to create new neural pathways in order to adapt to changes. Via CNNH

little girl playing with colored balls
Image Courtesy of Vimeo

Music triggers dopamine

Dopamine is a hormone associated with pleasure and also increases a person’s motivation to do things. It is triggered by activities that bring pleasure to the body, such as listening to music and even eating food!

In fact, dopamine levels have found to be deficient in individuals suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and ADHD. Music therapy can be an effective treatment for these individuals, increasing dopamine production, and aiding in improving mood, enhancing learning and focus, and promoting overall well being. Via CNNH

Music helps in expression

In its own amazing way, music is a vehicle through which we communicate how we feel. It is no different for people with neurological disorders.

..children and adults who suffer from anxiety and mood disorders may benefit from music therapy to improve coping skills, reduce anxiety, improve self-regulation, self-esteem, self-awareness, and increase their verbal and non-verbal expression of feelings. Via CNNH

ladies playing different drums
Image Courtesy of Flickr

Music is structured

The fact that music has a definite pattern causes it to have a profound effect on the brain.

Structure and familiarity through music can be very soothing and coordinating for the brain. Because of this structure, music therapy interventions can be beneficial for individuals with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder by providing music to encourage relaxation, promote self-regulation, reduce hyperactivity, adjust to changes and transitions, and improve attention. Via CNNH

Music helps communication

The art of singing is interestingly connected to speech and therefore music can help to treat speech disorders.

Music therapy can be used for the treatment of voice, speech, and language. Music Therapy can be an effective tool in encouraging communication in individuals with various diagnoses including ASD, Stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and more. Via CNNH

A True Story in progress

The effects of music lessons have been seen in the life of Minh, a 15-year-old boy who is non-verbal and autistic. Within a month, the young man had learned so much through the music learning tool and is now doing wonders!

Minh is in a special- need music band with six other members like him. Tomorrow will be their first gig !  A wonderful non-profit organization call Friendship Circle. Minh is the latest band member to join but he learned the songs so fast!!! His music teacher, a music professor at UM, is amazed!! Via Piano Wizard Academy

Featured Image: Image Credit

Related Articles:

Autism Spectrum Disorder & Music Infographic

It been shown time and time again how constructive music education is in all areas of cognitive development, but it also proves to be especially helpful to those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, (ASD). Autism and music seem to go hand and hand when thoughtfully implemented and utilized. As showcased by the Autism Spectrum Disorder & Music Infographic. There are many things about music and autism that complement each other and really allow for the person with autism to excel. There are many things that we would find very obvious but more powerful than words can allow. The most important one being that music is human, a universal language. When considering that many people with autism struggle with expressive language, this is the ultimate mode of communication, one that doesn’t need words. This in turn can make the music environment non-threatening and a prime avenue to learn and express oneself. Music also lends itself to a secure and safe environment for those with autism because it provides the structure and predictability for those that thrive on routines. Via E-learning Infographics


Children and Adults with Special Needs

Does your child or loved one have additional needs that make learning or being independent more difficult?

Music Therapy is a proven effective intervention for children and adults with additional needs, such as those with:
Physical or intellectual disability
Learning difficulties
Expressive communication difficulties
Developmental delay
Syndromes such as Down, Rett, Tourette, Fragile X

A formal diagnosis can only be obtained from a paediatrician or psychologist, but Music Therapy can help to address some of the underlying difficulties and provide strategies, regardless of whether the diagnosis has been made. Via Music Therapy Ireland



Piano teacher hits the right note for children with learning difficulties

AMMAN — When Khaled’s mother signed him up for piano classes, she did not expect that playing music would be so much more than a hobby for the young boy.

Khaled, not his real name, is a kindergarten-age boy with a speech delay.

But over two months of piano lessons, Khaled’s articulation abilities improved, according to his mother, who added that learning the lyrics of the songs along with the tunes was an “unconventional” way of improving his speech.

“Piano sessions developed my son’s talent and his passion for music, and at the same time, they were a therapy for his speech delay,” she told The Jordan Times in a recent interview. Via Jordan Times