Adults

Music education research about the benefits of music for adults.

Musicians respond faster to sensory stimuli

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

New research from the School of Speech Language Pathology and Audiology at the Université de Montréal in Canada, shows that musicians respond faster to sensory stimuli than non-musicians. This, in turn, has implications for preventing the sensory decline that comes with age.

“As people get older, for example, we know their reaction times get slower. So if we know that playing a musical instrument increases reaction times, then maybe playing an instrument will be helpful for them,” said lead study researcher Simon Landry, a cognitive psychology expert from Université de Montréal.

Researchers compared the reactions times of 16 musicians (from the University’s music faculty) and 19 non-musicians (from the University’s School of Speech Language Pathology) in performing a simple test. Both groups were roughly evenly split between graduates and undergraduates.

The participants were taken to a quiet, well-lit room, with one hand on a computer mouse and the index finger of the other hand on a small box that vibrated intermittently. They were asked to click on the mouse when they heard a sound from the speakers in front of them or when the box vibrated, or both.

Researchers found that the musicians – who had started playing between the ages of 3 to 10-years-old, and had at least seven years of training – responded more rapidly compared to those with no musical training.

SOURCES:
Université de Montréal: http://nouvelles.umontreal.ca/en/article/2017/01/06/play-an-instrument-and-stay-alert/
ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311679389_Musicians_react_faster_and_are_better_multisensory_integrators
The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/playing-music-brain-benefits-aging_us_58765d35e4b03c8a02d4713b
i4u.com: http://www.i4u.com/2017/01/119471/playing-musical-instrument-can-sharpen-your-senses
health.com: http://www.health.com/mind-body/instrument-brain-benefits
The TeCake: http://tecake.in/news/health/27934-27934.html
Sciencedirect.com: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278262616300550
Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/315231.php

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: BRAIN & SENSORY DEVELOPMENT
TARGET GROUP: YOUNG PEOPLE & ADULTS
AGE: 18-34-YEARS-OLD
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 35
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
DATE: 2016
PLACE: CANADA

Want to ‘train your brain’? Forget apps, learn a musical instrument

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

Image from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

A useful article from UK’s The Guardian newspaper, collecting together many sources of evidence about the beneficial effects of music in developing brain function.

“Music reaches parts of the brain that other things can’t,” says neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday of the University of Westminster. “It’s a strong cognitive stimulus that grows the brain in a way that nothing else does, and the evidence that musical training enhances things like working memory and language is very robust.”

Studies show that learning to play a musical instrument not only increases grey matter volume in various brain regions, but can also strengthen the long-range connections between them. Other research mentioned in the article shows that musical training also enhances verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and literacy skills, such that professional musicians usually outperform non-musicians on these abilities.

The article concludes that playing a musical instrument is a rich and complex experience that involves integrating information from the senses of vision, hearing, and touch, as well as fine movements, and learning to do so can induce long-lasting changes in the brain.

Source:
The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/oct/24/want-to-train-your-brain-forget-apps-learn-a-musical-instrument?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=oupmusic&utm_campaign=oupmusic

Musical training and executive functioning

Professor Nadine Gaab, associate professor of paediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital Boston and the Harvard Medical School, and a member of the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has shown that people who play a musical instrument regularly have higher executive function (EF) skills than non-musicians. EF skills are cognitive processes that include solving problems, setting goals, and thinking flexibly.

In a study published in 2014, Gaab and her research team had examined 30 adults between 18 and 35, and 27 children between 9 and 12. Half the adult participants and 15 of the children were regarded as ‘musical’ – the adults were either seeking or had obtained a performance degree and practiced at least eight hours a week, and the children had been taking private instrumental lessons for an average of 5.2 years – while the non-musicians had no musical training outside of the requirements of the general music curriculum in school.

The researchers examined the participants as they performed various tasks measuring EF skills. Overall, the musical participants performed better on several, although not all, of the executive function tests. Both adult and children musicians exhibited higher cognitive flexibility than non-musicians. The adult musicians showed a more proficient working memory, and the child musicians exhibited faster processing speed, than their non-musician peers.

SOURCES:

Plosone.org: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4061064/pdf/pone.0099868.pdf Harvard Graduate School of Education: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/03/music-lessons

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING
TARGET GROUP: CHILDREN & ADULTS
AGE: 9-12 YEARS & 18-35 YEARS
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 57 (27 CHILDREN & 30 ADULTS)
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
DATE: 2014
PLACE: USA

How parents and grandparents can support and champion music education

We’re all aware that music is good for children and music can keep people happy, healthy and mentally fit throughout their lives – and there’s evidence to back it up. But with threats to arts and music education funding in many countries, what can families do to support their young musicians?

Thanks to Luton Music Service, lead organisation in The Mix, Luton’s music education hub Link to http://www.thelutonmusicmix.com/

Thanks for the photo to Luton Music Service, lead organisation in The Mix, Luton’s music education hub www.thelutonmusicmix.com/

If you have a child or grandchild who’s involved in music, then you’ll already have experienced or heard about the impact of cuts to arts and music budgets in schools and in your local area. It’s frustrating, and at times may seem beyond your control: but parent (or grandparent) power can make a difference, and there are many ways that you can help.

Anita Holford and Dyfan Wyn Owen find out how the families of young musicians can make sure their children aren’t short-changed.

Source:
Musicstage: http://musicstage.co/Musicstage-GB/5c99e560f87143fb89adc4e3ddd87019-How-parents-and-grandparents-can-support-andchampion-music-education/WebViewer

Singing improves mental health and wellbeing – latest research from Sidney De Haan Centre

The latest research on the health benefits of singing from the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health (Canterbury Christ Church University, UK) has found that singing reduces anxiety and depression and improves mental wellbeing.

The Centre established four community singing groups to explore the potential impact regular group singing has on participants’ mental health and wellbeing.

During the course of the project (From November 2014 to December 2015), 168 people took part on at least one occasion. Participants were asked to complete short questionnaires to measure the level of mental distress they were experiencing at the beginning of the project, in February, and again in July.

The results of the 47 completed questionnaires showed that singing significantly reduced the participants’ feelings of mental distress, anxiety and depression, and improved their mental wellbeing more generally.

Professor Stephen Clift, Director of the Sidney De Haan Research Centre, said: “The singing groups continue to prove to be a cost-effective health strategy especially at a time when social care and health budgets are being squeezed from all sides. We hope that this evidence will allow us to conduct more research in to health economics, to further support our argument for arts on prescription.”

SOURCES:
Canterbury Christ Church University: http://www.canterbury.ac.uk/health-and-wellbeing/sidney-de-haan-research-centre/documents/Singing%20for%20Mental%20Health%20report%20Dec%202015.pdf
Sound Sense: http://www.soundsense.org/metadot/index.pl?id=28759&isa=DBRow&op=show&dbview_id=22954

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: IMPROVED MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING
TARGET GROUP: ADULTS
AGE: UNKNOWN
MUSIC TYPE: SINGING
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 47 (168 IN TOTAL)
PERIOD OF STUDY: 13 MONTHS
DATE: 2015
PLACE: UK

Singing’s secret power: The Ice-breaker Effect

Singing at Five Valleys Music Centre

Thanks to photographer Malcolm Pollock, Five Valleys Music Centre, Gloucestershire Music and Make Music Gloucestershire

A new research study by the University of Oxford, published in the Royal Society’s Open Science journal, has provided the first evidence for an ‘ice-breaker effect’ of singing in bringing strangers closer together.

The research was led by Dr Eiluned Pearce, from Oxford’s Department of Experimental Psychology. The seven-month study followed participants in weekly singing and non-singing (crafts or creative writing) adult education classes, organised by the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of adult education. Attendees were given surveys before and after individual sessions in the first month, in the third month and at the end of the seven-month course. They were asked to rate how close they felt to their classmates.

According to Dr Pearce, ‘We had expected the singing classes to feel closer to each other than the other classes at the end of the seven months. However, we found something different. For every class, people felt closer to each other at the end of each two-hour session than they did at the start. At the end of the seven months, all the classes were reporting similar levels of closeness.

‘The difference between the singers and the non-singers appeared right at the start of the study. In the first month, people in the singing classes became much closer to each other over the course of a single class than those in the other classes did. Singing broke the ice better than the other activities, getting the group together faster by giving a boost to how close classmates felt towards each other right at the start of the course.’

SOURCES:
University of Oxford: http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2015-10-28-singing%E2%80%99s-secret-power-ice-breaker-effect-1
The Royal Society: http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/2/10/150221
MusicStage: http://musicstage.co/Musicstage-GB/731aedfc428941be94d8fc7222fe64dd-Oxford-University-research-shows-singing-as-social-ice-breaker/WebViewer

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: SOCIAL BONDING
TARGET GROUP: ADULTS
AGE: 18-83 YEARS
MUSIC TYPE: SINGING
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 135
PERIOD OF STUDY: 7 MONTHS
DATE: 2015
PLACE: UK

Be healthy, happy and mentally fit – make music!

People with dementia & relatives participate in Mindsong project

People with dementia, and their relatives, participating in Mindsong’s Together in Song project. Photographer – Paul Saunders © Mindsong

We take it as read that playing a musical instrument or singing is good for the brain, the body and the emotions. Great minds such as Plato, William Shakespeare, Friedrich Nietzsche and Hans Christian Andersen have said as much, not to mention notable musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Ludwig van Beethoven. But is it all supposition and pseudo-science?

In this article on the Musicstage website, Anita Holford and Dyfan Wyn Owen take a look at evidence from around the world and conclude that listening to music is good for you but playing a musical instrument or singing has powerful, long-lasting effects on your health and well-being.

If you’re already a musician or singer, making sure you make time to play regularly is going to give you more than just pleasure. And if you’re not, you could take up a musical instrument, make more time to sing in the home or join a music group to give your brain a full-body workout. It seems there are few better ways to be healthy, happy and mentally fit.

Source:
Musicstage: http://musicstage.co/Musicstage-GB/8de6d28c2ac94f7d9db6a397f9993d72-Be-healthy-happy-and-mentally-fit–make-music/WebViewer

Anita Collins: music education key to raising literacy and numeracy standards

anita+TEDAustralian researcher Anita Collins extols the value of music education and says that instead of agonising over why students can’t or won’t study maths or science perhaps we should concentrate on improving cognitive capacity via music lessons.

Two decades of research have found that music education grows, hones and permanently improves neural networks like no other activity. Children who undertake formal, ongoing musical education have significantly higher levels of cognitive capacity, specifically in their language acquisition and numerical problem solving skills. They also continue in education for longer, reverse the cognitive issues related to disadvantage and earn and contribute more on average across their lifetime.

Music education is often one of the first programmes to be cut or scaled back when the purse strings are tightened in a school. When considering the research that now exists, this seems flawed. Many of the intervention programs that are in operation in schools may find they are less in demand if music education is viewed not as an extra but as a concurrent neural enhancer to literacy and numeracy education.

SOURCES:

The Age: http://www.theage.com.au/national/education/music-education-key-to-raising-literacy-and-numeracy-standards-20150614-ghhuw9

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT, EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING
TARGET GROUP: CHILDREN & ADULTS
AGE: ALL AGES
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
NOs INVOLVED: UNKNOWN
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
DATE: 2015
PLACE: AUSTRALIA

Genes that develop brain connections are fired up when making music

Genetic helix

Thanks to https://pixabay.com for image reproduced under Creative Commons Deed CC0 Public Domain

This website is testament to the wide-ranging benefits that come from learning and making music, but a new study from Finnish scientists has broken new ground in making the connection between genetics and playing music. It shows how music fires up the genes involved in growing new connections in the brain.

Academic researchers in Helsinki took blood samples from 10 professional musicians before and after they had played a selection of pieces by Stravinsky, Haydn, Mozart and Bach. They identified all of the genes that were turned on during the performance – that is, those genes that actually got transcribed into ribonucleic acid that could be used to make proteins. Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a polymeric molecule and is implicated in various biological roles in coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes. RNA and Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) are nucleic acids, and, along with proteins and carbohydrates, constitute the three major macromolecules essential for all known forms of life.

What the researchers saw was a boost in the activity of genes involved in neural growth and flexibility, which could account for musicians’ brains being good at forging new connections. Genes involved in motor control were also revved up, as were those that light up the brain’s pleasure centre.

Perhaps not surprisingly, versions of about a third of these musically important genes are known to also be active in songbirds—another creature whose livelihood depends on using musical talent to wow an audience.

Sources:

Nature.com: http://www.nature.com/srep/2015/150325/srep09506/full/srep09506.html Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/video/genes-orchestrate-musical-ability/

The relationship between musical activity and ageing of the brain

-Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center evaluated the association between musical instrumental participation and cognitive ageing. Seventy healthy adults (ages 60–83) varying in musical activity – non-musicians, low and high activity musicians – completed a comprehensive series of neuropsychological tests. The results of this preliminary study revealed that participants with at least 10 years of musical experience had better performance in nonverbal memory, naming, and executive processes in advanced age relative to non-musicians.

This reinforces other research carried out by the Rotman Institute in Canada.

SOURCES:

APA PsycNET: http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2011-06927-001/

American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/neu-25-3-378.pdf

National Center for Biotechnology Information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21463047

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: PRESERVED COGNITIVE FUNCTIONING
TARGET GROUP: ADULTS
AGE: 60-83-YEARS-OLD
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 70
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
DATE: 2009
PLACE: USA