Music strengthens the mind.

Music plays an important role in virtually all societies. Nevertheless, in times of economic hardship, funds for music education are often amongst the first to be cut…. This is particularly worrying given both anecdotal and limited research evidence suggesting that music can have strong positive effects on our physical as well as psychological functioning.

So say Ines Jentzsch, Anahit Mkrtchian, and Nayantara Kansal in an article in Neuropsychologia. (And no, I don’t know how to pronounce the second author’s name. Pat, I’d like to buy a vowel.) The article itself is suitably dense for a paper with an audience consisting of neuropsychologists, statisticians, and the like. Fortunately, however, BBC News has provided a summary that’s accessible and easy to read. There’s nothing new, of course, about studies that show the cognitive benefits of music. (See, for instance, the review I wrote four years ago of Daniel J. Levitin’s This is Your Brain on Music.) But this study adds a few interesting observations:

The team said their results indicated musical activity could be used to slow, stop or even reverse age and illness-related decline in mental functioning.

Wow! That would be quite something, if it turns out to be confirmed.

At the end of the BBC story, there is also a fascinating link to another story that suggests a possible use of music in treating ADHD, although there’s no real evidence at this time. All I can say — and it’s purely anecdotal — is that my observations of students who are also musicians bear out that idea.



Categories: Teaching & Learning