Musical Brain

Children who play the violin or study piano could be learning more than just Mozart.

Each day I post a new Online MCAT CARS Passage. This is for anyone who wants to practice for the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Section.

Every article is selected to meet the AAMC MCAT criteria for MCAT CARS.

Subscribe by email to receive a new free practice passage each morning.

May 25, 2017 – Online MCAT CARS Practice

Question: What is your summary of the author’s main ideas. Post your own answer in the comments before reading those made by others.

Children who play the violin or study piano could be learning more than just Mozart. A University of Vermont College of Medicine child psychiatry team has found that musical training might also help kids focus their attention, control their emotions and diminish their anxiety. Their research is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

James Hudziak, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, and colleagues including Matthew Albaugh, Ph.D., and graduate student research assistant Eileen Crehan, call their study “the largest investigation of the association between playing a musical instrument and brain development.”

The research continues Hudziak’s work with the National Institutes of Health Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development. Using its database, the team analyzed the brain scans of 232 children ages 6 to 18.

As children age, the cortex — the outer layer of the brain — changes in thickness. In previous analysis of MRI data, Hudziak and his team discovered that cortical thickening or thinning in specific areas of the brain reflected the occurrence of anxiety and depression, attention problems, aggression and behavior control issues even in healthy kids — those without a diagnosis of a disorder or mental illness. With this study, Hudziak wanted to see whether a positive activity, such as music training, would influence those indicators in the cortex.

The study supports The Vermont Family Based Approach, a model Hudziak created to establish that the entirety of a young person’s environment — parents, teachers, friends, pets, extracurricular activities — contributes to his or her psychological health. “Music is a critical component in my model,” Hudziak says.

The authors found evidence they expected — that music playing altered the motor areas of the brain, because the activity requires control and coordination of movement. Even more important to Hudziak were changes in the behavior-regulating areas of the brain. For example, music practice influenced thickness in the part of the cortex that relates to “executive functioning, including working memory, attentional control, as well as organization and planning for the future,” the authors write.

A child’s musical background also appears to correlate with cortical thickness in “brain areas that play a critical role in inhibitory control, as well as aspects of emotion processing.”

The findings bolster Hudziak’s hypothesis that a violin might help a child battle psychological disorders even better than a bottle of pills. “We treat things that result from negative things, but we never try to use positive things as treatment,” he says.

Such an approach may prove difficult to accomplish. According to the study’s authors, research from the U.S. Department of Education indicates that three-quarters of U.S. high school students “rarely or never” take extracurricular lessons in music or the arts.

“Such statistics, when taken in the context of our present neuroimaging results,” the authors write, “underscore the vital importance of finding new and innovative ways to make music training more widely available to youths, beginning in childhood.”

Adapted from Science Daily.

Review

Leave a comment below with what you understood to be the author’s main ideas. Ask about this daily passage in office hours/workshops for help.

Subscribe to my Daily CARS mailing list by entering your email.

The full list of daily articles is available here.

This was an article on Education.

Have a great day.
Jack Westin
MCAT CARS Instructor.
Contact Information

28 Comments


  1. The author is discussing hudziak’s research that suggests Musical training boosts brain functions in youth, particularly resistance to mental illness.

    Reply

  2. studying music = emotional stability, environment (music) determines health + music = good

    Reply

  3. author values early musical training in children.
    Huzdak found music increase thickening of motor cortex of brain.
    however, according to US D.E. 3/4 of children rarely have chance for extracurricular activity.
    early training of music is vital.

    Reply

  4. Music training=> better psychology

    Reply

  5. music is good for children brain development -> change cortical thickness.

    Reply

  6. Music training from early on as childhood can have a significant positive effect on the development of children’s brain. For this reason, ensuring that children receive the music training from early on is important.

    Reply

  7. Children who are exposed to studying/practicing music will develop a thicker cortex, leading to more emotional stability, less anxiety, and a longer attention span.

    Reply

  8. A team of scientists have found that music may have a positive effect in the cortical thickness of childrens brains, which can help overcome neuroticism.

    Reply

  9. MI: music = psychological benefits

    Reply

  10. Playing a musical instrument as a child can help kids deal with mental instability and emotions as proven in an experiment. Music can influence the thickness of the Brains cortex in areas that control movement, cognition, behavior and memory. All of which can help a child battle mental instability more than any medication or therapy

    Reply

  11. The author proposes that allowing children to practice playing musical instruments could help them develop in a positive manner psychologically. The author cites a study in which thickness of cortical areas, which has previously been demonstrated to correlate with anxiety, depression, and a person’s ability to focus, was directly related to children’s musical background.

    Reply

  12. child music = good, music > pills but hard b/c not children don’t do music training

    Reply

  13. Children who has exposure to music has indeed lead to physical changes to the brain. It’s a very positive experience for the child

    Reply

  14. new research shows that music plays critical role in improving children’s psychological condition by positively affecting cerebral cortex areas of the brain – also affect emotion control and inhibitory control. However, additional data shows that such new approach may come with difficulty that many children dont have access to music and art.
    author: likes the new approach of music improve child mental health but raises a question whether this can be widely available to everyone.

    Reply

  15. music training helps thickening the cortex, and makes kids smarter.

    Reply

  16. Research shows that musical training potentially benefits childrens’ sensorimotor skills and cognitive abilities, demonstrated by a correlation in musical proficiency and cortical thickening of certain regions of the brain.

    Reply

  17. New research –> musical training helps focus attention, control emotions and diminish anxiety.

    Reply

  18. MI: MT study shows corell with + affects on psych/brain, need to make more available
    tone: neut

    Reply

  19. Researchers show the relationship between playing a musical instrument and brain development in children

    Reply

  20. MIP: music has a positive impact on brain development

    Reply

  21. Child music training –> thickened cortex –> psych/behavioural benefits

    Reply

  22. Author seems to advocating learning music at a young age given the benefits (scientifically proven) and the observation that 75% of US high school students do not take lessons in music or the arts.
    In the study, it was found that learning music thickens the cortical regions of the brain associated with attention, emotions and anxiety in healthy children who have not been diagnosed with mental disorders or illnesses. Taking up music might be more helpful in combating depression and other psychological disorders in the adolescents.

    Reply

  23. MI: Music Learning Benefits -> Kids, improve brain development overall (like emotions)

    Reply

  24. MIP: playing instru. = ‘+’ effects on brain/mental health; tone = neutral

    Reply

  25. Musical training can help develop the brain cortex which can help great mental anxiety and disorders at a young age.

    Reply

  26. MP: Music is very useful for increasing the size of the cortex and overall helping kids, but not enough kids use
    Tone: + for encouraging kids to learn music early on

    Reply

  27. MIP
    (1) Music = + brain development
    (increase cortical thickening = increase motor, behaviour, inhibitory, and emotional control)
    (2) Music integration = hard b/c not many take music = should increase availability

    Tone
    Positive

    Reply

Leave a Reply