Neuroimaging proves the beneficial effect of music education on children's brains

Musical education increases brain connectivity in children and could be beneficial in the treatment of autism and ADHD. This is what researchers have discovered in a recent study by the Radiological Society of North America.

When it comes to language acquisition, concentration or social skills, the beneficial effects of musical education on children are well documented. Music is increasingly being used in the management of various learning disabilities or to treat depression in young people. But how does music affect children's brains? How can it influence functional or structural changes and guide the development of cognitive, motor or emotional functions?

A recent study published on the Radiological Society of North America website provides some answers to this question. ‘’Musical practice can contribute to young children’s brain development, because it optimizes the creation and functioning of neural pathways, while stimulating those already present in the frontal areas, which are involved in complex cognitive processes’’ says Pilar Dies-Suarez, head of radiology at the Federico Gómez Children's Hospital in Mexico City, who initiated the study.

Together with her team, she studied the evolution of 23 children aged between 5 and 6 years old, right-handed and without sensory, perceptual or neurological disorders, who followed musical training for nine months. None of the children had previously received any artistic education. They were evaluated before and after their participation by an advanced MRI technique that can detect micro-structural changes in the brain’s white matter.

Suite à neuf mois d’enseignement musical, la neuroimagerie montre une croissance des fibres nerveuses et de nouvelles connections dans les régions associées au TSA et TDAH
Suite à neuf mois d’enseignement musical, la neuroimagerie montre une croissance des fibres nerveuses et de nouvelles connections dans les régions associées au TSA et TDAH  /  @rsna

‘’When a child is taught music“, says Pilar Dies-Suarez, "his brain is requested to perform several tasks. Listening, cognitive and motor functions, emotion and social skills are all mobilized at the same time. A complex circuit of different regions in the brain are solicited and therefore implies more connections between the two hemispheres, which may explain the results of our study ".

For the Pilar Dies-Suarez team, these results are living proof that music practice contributes to the creation of new neural networks and the stimulation and optimization of existing connections. Their therapeutic scope could make it possible to better target the management of certain pathologies, particularly ASDs (Autistic Spectrum Disorders) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), one of the markers of which, according to some researchers, is low neural connectivity in the frontal cortex.

"We already know that music education has a very positive effect on children with autism or ADHD, but this study has given us a better understanding of what is changing in the brain and where new connections are forming, “says Dr. Dies-Suarez.   

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