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Study: Playing Music Heightens Learning More Than Listening

December 16, 2014

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Playing music can help children learn, a study has found.

The study, from Northwestern University, focused on children who attended a music appreciation class and children who, as well as taking that class, played musical instruments. Researchers connected electrodes to the children's heads to measure their brains' responses to both listening to music and playing music. The results showed that the children who played music had higher amounts of neural processing than the children who listened to the music without playing an instrument.

The children surveyed in the study came from the Harmony Project, a Los Angeles-based community music program that offers services to low-income children. The Harmony Project reported that 93 percent of its high school seniors had moved on to get a college education. A previous study, published in September, had found that music training improved the development of children's nervous systems.

The researchers in the more recent study drew a connection between playing musical instruments and being meaningfully engaged in learning, which has been shown to lead to improved class attendance and improved retention of classroom instruction. And that's what the researchers found in this more recent study.

The results of the more recent study were published in Frontiers in Psychology.

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