ChorTeach is ACDA’s quarterly publication for choral conductors and teachers at all levels. It is published online, and each issue contains four practical articles. If you are not already a member of ACDA, you can join as an Associate for $45 per year and receive access to ChorTeach and the Choral Journal online.
The Fall 2009 issues contains an article titled “A Cognitive Crescendo: How Music Affects the Brain” by Angela Hampton. Following are the introduction and three principles regarding brain function. To read the full article, log into ACDA.org and download it here.
“The story of your brain on music is the story of an exquisite orchestration of brain regions, involving both the oldest and newest parts of the human brain, and regions as far apart as the cerebellum in the back of the head and the frontal lobes just behind your eyes.” — Daniel J. Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music
In the summer of 2007, I completed a sequence of three levels of coursework on Brain Compatible Teaching offered through my school and Indiana University Southeast. While the class itself did not focus specifically on music, two of the four instructors are practicing musicians. They brought to light recent research on how the brain reacts to music and how musicians of all ages benefit from participating in musical activities. This is a huge subject for current neuroscience research, and much information is published on the topic. In this article, I offer interesting findings in the area of brain research as it relates to music. Though this will merely scratch the surface of the topic, I hope you find that science supports the notion that our passion for music is beneficial to our mental capacities.
There are a few basic principles regarding brain function that are necessary for understanding music’s role in shaping the brain.
- First, learning takes place when neurons are activated. The more activation, the greater the capacity for learning. Musical activity engages millions of neurons.
- Second, the principle of “use it or lose it” is especially true of the brain. Learning becomes permanent when neurons make connections to other neurons. This occurs when new learning is employed. There are windows of opportunity for many intellectual functions, including learning to play a musical instrument, learning a foreign language, building vocabulary, developing spatial skills, etc. That is, there are optimal times in human growth and development (mostly from birth to puberty) in which the brain is equipped with a greater capacity to learn in these areas with ease; however, it is never too late to learn anything. The brain is malleable and can learn at any age.
- Third, there is no musical center in the brain. Musical involvement activates more areas of the brain than any other activity. The right brain is involved in the experiential aspects; the left brain is involved with the analytical, structural elements of music; the limbic system controls the emotional response to music.
Read the rest of the article by clicking here and looking in the Fall 2009 issue for Angela Hampton’s article. If you are not already an ACDA member, you can join as an Associate for only $45 per year and receive online access to all ACDA publications. Go here to learn more.