Many times in our Village classes (for infants 0 – 18 months), during our exercise time, I will often tell the parents that by providing the cross-lateral movements between opposing hand and foot, they are stimulating the corpus callosum which contains the nerve pathways between the two hemispheres in the brain. This area is also linked to future academic success, such as learning to read, being able to write, and eye-hand coordination. Recently published findings now indicate that the consistent, faithful practice of a musical instrument also provides further lifelong benefits.
In ScienceNOW Daily News, an article entitled “Music Builds Bridges in the Brain“ by Greg Miller was published this past Wednesday, and gives even more weight to those parental reminders “Have you practiced your music today?” It documents the release of a study by neuroscientists at Harvard Medical College and Boston College who studied 31 children from the age of 6 to 9 who had all been involved in musical instruction at some time during the course of the study or were continuing in their ongoing musical studies.
Detailed magnetic resonance images (MRI’s) were taken of the children at ages 6 and 9. Of the original thirty-one, six children were faithful to practice each week, averaging at least 2.5 hours weekly in the time between scans. (Side note here: this is the same amount of time I require of all of my beginners – one half hour for five days each week.)
In these children, “a region of the corpus callosum that connects movement-planning regions on the two sides of the brain grew about 25% relative to the overall size of the brain.” Those children who practiced less than this or dropped their instrument entirely showed no growth. Consistent, faithful practice doesn’t just improve your playing; it also strengthens and builds your brain!
All of these children involved in the study did study an instrument which involved the use of two hands, such as the piano or violin. (Possibly even flute? 🙂 ) We will have exciting news about our piano studio up in the next few days, so stay tuned!