Music with Mental benefits?


“Off you go kids and don’t forget your mind, eh ………. music sheets!”

Who knew learning to play an instrument had such mental benefits?

A study by James Hadziak, M.D., professor of psychiatry and director of the Vermont Centre for Children, Youth and Families et al, has shown that training to play a musical instrument may help children focus their attention, control their emotions and impulses, as well as improve visuo-spatial abilities. Sounds like every parents dream….

The study analysed the brain scans of 232 children aged between 6 to 18 years. Participants were recruited from the NIH MRI study of normal brain development. Each participant underwent MRI scanning and behavioural testing on up to 3 separate visits, occurring at 2-year intervals.

The authors found that music training altered the motor areas of the brain, owing to its requirement of control and execution of movement; not much of a surprise for those people already acquainted with music practice. These areas include the primary motor and pre-motor cortices, with the latter proposed to play a critical role in the preparation and sensory guidance of movement. Changes were also reported in the bilateral parietal cortices, which serves to integrate multi-sensory information that may be related to motoric activity. Again, such improvement is expected, with regard to the skills most vital for and commonly associated with music playing.

Further results show similar influence in cortical thickness maturation within DLPFC, which is implicated in aspects of executive functioning; including working memory, attention control, organisation and planning for the future. To top it off, results are not gender specific. However, given the nature of the experiment, the possibility of the influence of confounding factors could not be ruled out.



James J. Hudziak, MD, Matthew D. Albaugh, PhD, Simon Ducharme, MD, Sherif Karama, MD, PhD, Margaret Spottswood, MD, Eileen Crehan, BA, Alan C. Evans, PhD, Kelly N. Botteron, MD, for the Brain Development Cooperative Group, Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; December 2014 DOI:


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Ebele Usifo


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