Study reveals practising a musical instrument helps children focus and plan ahead

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A recent study published by researchers at the University of Vermont’s College of Medicine provides more evidence of the benefits music can bring to children and young people.

According to the examination of 232 brain scans of children aged six to 18, lead by Professor James Hudziak, practising a musical instrument positively influences developments in the brain which help children to cope with emotions, improve attentiveness and sharpen executive functions.

Concretely, the Professor of Psychiatry’s study revealed that a positive activity, such as playing music, impacted the development of the cortex, the brain’s outer layer. Hudziak previously discovered that cortical thickening in certain areas of the brain is linked with the development of psychological problems like anxiety, attention difficulties and behavioural issues. The study’s authors noted that practising music had a beneficial effect on “executive functioning, including working memory, attentional control, as well as organization and planning for the future.”

Hudziak suggested that giving a child a violin may be more helpful in dealing with anxiety than a bottle of pills. “We treat things that result from negative things, but we never try to use positive things as a treatment,” Hudziak said.

One major difficulty with this approach identified by the study is that in the US, three quarters of high school students do not take any musical or extracurricular tuition. Allowing children to secure the benefits of music practice would require considerably expanding access to music lessons by increasing funding.