With a public education system forced to adhere to the mantra “do more with less,” it is hardly shocking to discover that three-quarters of high school students “rarely or never” receive extracurricular lessons music or arts. Music and arts education continue to be collateral damage in the slashing of budgets. Meanwhile, research piles up citing the transformative impact these programs have on children’s cognitive skills. Studies increasingly show that musical training can, quite literally, change young minds.
The cortex, or outer layer of brain, changes in thickness as a child grows and develops. “What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument,” said James Hudziak, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, “it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.”
Studies point to neurological benefits as well. Math, especially, is aided by music education because it targets the development of spatial-temporal reasoning. Highly developed spatial-temporal faculties are imperative for working through solutions to the complex problems in fields such as architecture, engineering, science and mathematics.
Still not convinced? According to Americans for the Arts, students with four years of music or arts in high school, on average, score 100 points higher on the verbal and math portions of the SAT than those with just one-half year of music or other arts.
For what it’s worth, all of these benefits persist long after a child stops taking lessons. Longitudinal studies show that taking music lessons as a child increases brain plasticity, and can help men and women resist the effects of aging and cognitive decline.