music and the brain

INFOGRAPHIC – music and brain development

A useful infographic about the relationship between music education and brain development, thanks to Ward-Brodt Music Store, Wisconsin, USA.









Music lessons can help children to concentrate

Brass class 1

Researchers at the Dutch-speaking university, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in Brussels, Belgium have discovered that music lessons can help children to concentrate.

Sixty-three 9-12-year-olds took part in the research, and the results showed that the group of 32 children who had been having regular music lessons since the age of five displayed ‘enhanced cognitive inhibitory control’ compared to the 31 in the non-music lesson group. ‘Cognitive inhibition’ refers to our ability to tune out irrelevant information and focus our attention on what we’re doing.

To measure inhibitory control, all of the children completed a task where they were asked to press a certain key when a specific colour appeared on a computer screen in front of them. The children were scored on whether they pushed the correct buttons, and how long it took them to respond.

The researchers found that the young musicians performed significantly better than the non-musicians, and believe this might be related to music training because playing a musical instrument requires high levels of selective attention.

Pacific Standard:
Musicae Scientiae:


DATE: 2015

Music and the brain

In this 50m 45s YouTube clip, Dr Nina Kraus speaks with Charles Limb in this lively back-and-forth talk on music and the brain at the San Diego Symphony. Small ensembles perform as part of the talk, which was one of the highlights of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab’s visit to 2016’s Association for Research in Otolaryngology (ARO) conference.

What making music does to your brain

Charles Limb on the brain and improv

Music is the most complicated sound the brain can process. But why did our brains evolve such advanced tools to create and enjoy it? Neuroscientist and jazz musician Charles Limb recently got together with songwriter and musician Meklit Hadero to discuss music and the brain, and the report is published on TED ideas.

Music is the most advanced auditory stimulus there is. “When we look at the brains of humans, and how they evolved from the brains of animals, it becomes clear rather quickly that the human auditory system is capable of processing sound at an enormous level of complexity,” Limb says. “Music, I think, is the highest refinement of that complexity, meaning that as far as I know, there’s nothing in the auditory world that is harder for the brain to process than music.”

For many musicians, the path to creation leads them through some very specific (often odd) behaviors. For Hadero, a musician who grew up in a household of scientists, “composition mode” is a sometimes weeks-long fugue of discovery. In general, she tries to “swim into a song rather than approach it solely intellectually.” She might start with vocal improvisations that sound like babble, just noises and sounds over a melody, and later she’ll excavate phrases on which a song can take shape. For his part, Limb’s quest to understand what’s actually going on in the brain during this instinctual process has shown that the area of the brain related to self-monitoring and observation deactivates when musicians are improvising, while the region linked with self-expression lights up. So Hadero’s babble in fact represents an important internal physiological change. “You’re actually changing the way your brain is functioning,” he tells her.


Is Music Good For Your Child?

Education Through Music guitar class

Thanks to: Education Through Music for the photo by Anna Yatskevich

We all know, instinctively, that music is good for us, and for our children. Who can deny the affect that music has on us, its ability to express and understand complex feelings, and our drive as humans to make music, and to share it at the most important points in our lives?

And those responsible for our education systems across the world seem to agree, giving music a central place and in many cases prioritising it above other arts. References are often made to music’s ‘instrumental’ benefits – improving academic achievement, personal development, and life skills.

In this article on the Musicstage website, Anita Holford and Dyfan Wyn Owen, both parents of a young musician, look at whether learning music really can make a difference to childrens’ futures.

(Please note you can ask for the full article to be emailed to you from Musicstage, or you can sign-up to Musicstage, or become a subscriber).


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.

What if … every child had access to music education

Another powerful presentation from academic Anita Collins, asking what the impact might be if a generation’s cognitive abilities are raised – and she gives evidence that it’s possible – through music education.