Music Neuroscience

Although it is understood that music has many great benefits for the human brain, such as improving our mood or relaxing our minds, the full scope of music’s effects on the brain are not yet completely understood. There is a growing belief, however, that learning to play a musical instrument does have an impact on the ability to understand emotions in the voice, speech perception and ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Research into music neuroscience is a relatively new field but comes at an important time as school districts continue to cut music programs out of their budgets. As stronger evidence arises to support the idea that musical proficiency makes for better executive functioning, school districts may reevaluate their budget decisions and place a higher value on their music programs. In Boston, the Conservatory Lab Charter School does place a high value on their music program - every student receives music instruction. Diana Lam, the head of the school, includes music in the core curriculum because it teaches students to strive for quality in all areas of their lives and addresses the necessary behaviors and skills needed for academic success. Since implementing the music program, test scores have increased dramatically. Many researches of music neuroscience believe that music is important for the developing brain but what they are grappling to understand is the underlying mechanism which makes music so important for brain development. According to neuropsychologist Nadine Gabb, it is plausible to think that playing in an orchestral setting is influential in training the executive functioning skills because you have to play in a group and listen to each other. This concept is analogous to what happens in the brain of a musician -- different brain systems are involved in successfully playing a musical piece. The issue right now is that music neuroscience is facing a similar dilemma to music education -- both have trouble getting funding. But, experts in the field believe that music neuroscience has payed off. Research has shown the practical importance of music education and has helped to better understanding the human brain.