Dr Nina Kraus

The Rock ‘n’ Read Project – ‘If you can’t read, you can’t succeed.’

rocknread-banner-camera

The Rock ‘n’ Read Project in Minnesota uses proven, research-based strategies which help children to read at their grade level through singing. Singing is the fastest way to learn new vocabulary and increase comprehension and fluency.

Neuroscientists have found that making music, moving, and creative play develop a brain that is more able to acquire language, improves reading, helps in understanding mathematics, and many other executive functions such as planning, creating, and focusing. Neuroscientists such as Dr. Nina Kraus at Northwestern University are calling for schools to get children singing and moving daily. Keeping a steady beat and singing can remediate ineffective areas of the brain.

Children who cannot read at their grade level struggle to keep up, and often drop out of school. Reading is the most important factor in closing the achievement gap, and the Rock ‘n’ Read Project’s strategies have shown a dramatic improvement in reading achievement.

Founded by Bill Jones and Ann Kay, the Rock ‘n’ Read Project is a non-profit organisation run by a board of directors.

Source:
The Rock ‘n’ Read Project: http://www.rocknreadproject.org/

Researchers link ability to keep a beat to reading and language skills

The findings of a Northwestern University study in 2013 demonstrate that accurate beat-keeping involves synchronization between the parts of the brain responsible for hearing as well as movement. Where previous research investigations focused on the motor half of the equation, Dr Nina Kraus and co-author Adam Tierney focused on the auditory component.

The research involved 124 Chicago high school students who visited Dr Kraus’s laboratory and were given two tests. In the first, they were asked to listen to a metronome and tap their finger along to it on a special tapping pad. Their tapping accuracy was based on how closely their taps aligned in time to the tick-tock of the metronome.

In the second test, the students were fitted with electrodes measuring the consistency of their brain response to a repeated syllable. The more accurate the adolescents were at tapping along to the beat, the more consistent their brain response was to the speech syllable.

The study – the first to provide biological evidence linking the ability to keep a beat to the neural encoding of speech sounds – has significant implications for reading, according to Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.

“Rhythm is an integral part of both music and language,” Kraus says. “And the rhythm of spoken language is a crucial cue to understanding. Musicians have highly consistent auditory-neural responses. It may be that musical training – with its emphasis on rhythmic skills – can exercise the auditory-system, leading to less neural jitter and stronger sound-to-meaning associations that are so essential to learning to read.”

SOURCES:

The Journal of Neuroscience: http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/38/14981.full

Medicalxpress.com: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-09-importance-link-ability-language-skills.html

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: READING & LANGUAGE SKILLS
TARGET GROUP: YOUNG PEOPLE
AGE: 14-17 YEARS
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 124
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
DATE: 2013
PLACE: USA

U.S music merchants charity supports music education research

NAMM ShowResearch supported by U.S charity the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation – which is funded by NAMM Members through trade association activities and private donations –
is expanding understanding about the impact of music making and music education, the importance of music at every stage of life, and relationships between music and physical and emotional wellness. 

The NAMM Foundation provides funding for research projects including work by neurobiologist Dr Nina Kraus, of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Northwestern University, Illinois, which offers insight into how musical experience affects brain function across the lifespan.

They’ve also created a useful summary of the benefits of music education being explored through this research.

SOURCES:
NAMM Foundation: https://www.nammfoundation.org/what-we-do/music-research

Music training develops neural mechanisms needed for focused attention

Auditory brain image

Diagram from the Auditory Neuroscience lab of Northwestern University

 

Attention is a critically important aspect of education. Learners are constantly bombarded by a barrage of sounds and distractions, even in a quiet classroom, and so being able to focus attention has a direct correlation with your ability to learn and to enhance your performance. A study by researchers led by Dr Nina Kraus of Northwestern University suggests that music training can help people’s auditory attention to mature during pivotal developmental years and is believed to provide the first direct evidence of a ‘biological index for enhanced selective auditory attention in young musicians’. The researchers say that is an important consideration for educators and educational policy-makers involved in curriculum design.

SOURCES:

Brainvolts (Northwestern University): http://www.brainvolts.northwestern.edu/documents/Strait_DCN_2015.pdf

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT, ATTENTION
TARGET GROUP: CHILDREN & ADULTS
AGE: 3-35 YEARS
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 78
PERIOD OF STUDY: Unknown
DATE: 2014, published Jan 2015
PLACE: USA

Dr Nina Kraus interviewed about the effects of music on the brain

 

Dr. Nina Kraus discusses ongoing work in the Auditory Neuroscience Lab examining the benefits of music making on the brain. See also the following pages on this website:

Music can help close the achievement gap between poor and affluent young people

Active participation in music can rewire young people’s brains

Search under ‘Nina Kraus’ in the search bar at the top of this website for the latest updates from her research.

Active participation in music can rewire young people’s brains

In Harmony students

Photo of In Harmony students – with permission of Dr Nina Kraus

Dr Nina Kraus’s longitudinal study into the effects of music training on disadvantaged young people in Los Angeles , has been looking at the importance of active participation in music.

The research concludes that the level of participation – attendance at classes, practice – affects the changes that result in the brain and the related reading scores.

SOURCE:

Time Magazine: http://time.com/3634995/study-kids-engaged-music-class-for-benefits-northwestern/#

Musical children likely to be better with words too

SUMMARY:

A study by Northwestern University, led by Dr Nina Kraus, found that musical ability is biologically linked to literacy. Children – aged between 8 and 13 – who performed well in reading tests were also good at discerning rhythm and tone, and they also did better than average in tests of verbal memory. Music skill accounted for 38 per cent of the variation in reading ability between children, and the study showed that literacy and musical aptitude shared a common origin in the brain. Dr Kraus said: “These results add weight to the argument that music and reading are related via common neural and cognitive mechanisms and suggests a mechanism for the improvements in literacy seen with musical training.”

SOURCE:

The Scotsman: http://www.scotsman.com/news/education/musical_children_likely_to_be_better_with_words_too_researchers_find_1_1914136

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: Literacy
TARGET GROUP: Young people
AGE: 8-13 years
MUSIC TYPE: General
TYPE OF STUDY: Academic research
NOs INVOLVED: 42
PERIOD OF STUDY: Unknown
DATE: 2011
PLACE: United States

Playing music protects memory, hearing and brain processing

SUMMARY

A study by Dr Nina Kraus’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University, showed that musicians suffer less from ageing-related memory and hearing losses than non-musicians. It is believed to be the first study to provide biological evidence that lifelong musical experience has a good impact on the ageing process. Scientific research over the years has shown that studying music has many rewards, but this new research shows that it can fine-tune the human brain, biologically and neurologically enhancing its performance and protecting it from some of the ravages of time.

SOURCES:

ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/living-longer-learning-musical-instrument-protects-brain-memory/story?id=15482696#.T73sF79ZeXw

Neurobiology of Aging, Volume 33, Issue 7, pp 1483.e1-1483.e4:

CultureCase: http://www.culturecase.org/research/2014/04/lifelong-musical-experience-can-offset-the-effects-that-ageing-has-on-the-brain/

Neurobiology of Aging: http://www.neurobiologyofaging.org/article/S0197-4580%2811%2900547-1/abstract

Research Report: http://www.brainvolts.northwestern.edu/documents/APC_SA_NK_NeuroAging_2012.pdf

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: Memory & hearing loss
TARGET GROUP: Adults
AGE: 18-65 years
MUSIC TYPE: General
TYPE OF STUDY: Academic research
NOs INVOLVED: 87
PERIOD OF STUDY: Unknown
DATE: 2012
PLACE: United States

Music could help close achievement gap between poor and affluent students

Dr Nina Kraus1

Photo of In Harmony student and researcher – with permission of Dr Nina Kraus

A study by Northwestern University researchers led by Dr Nina Kraus has looked at the impact of music education on at-risk children’s nervous systems and found that music lessons could help them develop language and reading skills.

The researchers spent two summers with children from poor neighbourhoods in Los Angeles who were receiving music lessons through the Harmony Project, a non-profit organisation providing free music education to low income students.

Music method used

First 6 months – group introductory musicianship classes (1 hour x 2 sessions per week) – identifying pitch and rhythm, performing, notation, basic recorder playing.

Following this – four hours a week of group instruction in strings, woodwind, brass (depending on availability of instruments, provided at no cost to participants).

Two years better than one

Students were divided into two groups. The first received two years of music education by the end of the study, the second received one year of lessons. Researchers discovered that children’s brains responded to the music education after two years of lessons. One year was not enough to have a definitive impact.

“Making music can have a profound and lifelong impact on listening and learning.” Dr Nina Krauss. “It is an effective strategy for helping to close the achievement gap … What seems to be happening is that this experience of making music is helping to create a more efficient brain, a brain that is going to be able to help a person learn and communicate, especially through sound.”

The origins of the study

Prior to the study, leaders at Harmony Project had noticed that students participating in their free music lessons were performing much better than other students in the area. More than 90 per cent of high school seniors who participated going on to college, in an area with high school dropout rates of up to 50 per cent.

SOURCES:

Dr Nina Kraus’s website: http://www.brainvolts.northwestern.edu/ 

Huffington Post: Harmony project music study

Pacific Standard: Music lessons enhance brain function of disadvantaged kids

BBC: Music training can improve language and reading

The original research report:

The Journal of Neuroscience: Music Enrichment Programs Improve the Neural Encoding of Speech in At-Risk Children

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT
TARGET GROUP: DISADVANTAGED YOUNG PEOPLE
AGE: 6-9 YEARS
MUSIC TYPE: AFTER SCHOOL CLUBS
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 44
PERIOD OF STUDY: 2 YEARS
DATE: 2014
PLACE: United States