Taking Music Lessons Creates New Brain Connections in Children

Saturday, December 3, 2016 - 19:01

New studies have revealed that taking music lessons increases brain fiber connections in children and may be useful in treating autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Science Daily reports that researchers studied 23 healthy children between the ages of five and six years old who were right handed and had no history of sensory, perception or neurological disorders.

"It's been known that musical instruction benefits children with these disorders, but this study has given us a better understanding of exactly how the brain changes and where these new fiber connections are occurring,” said Pilar Dies-Suarez, M.D., chief radiologist at the Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez in Mexico City.

The brain's white matter is composed of millions of nerve fibers called axons that act like communication cables connecting various regions of the brain. Diffusion tensor imaging produces a measurement, called fractional anisotropy (FA), of the movement of extracellular water molecules along axons.

In healthy white matter, the direction of extracellular water molecules is fairly uniform and measures high in fractional anisotropy. When water movement is more random, FA values decrease, suggesting abnormalities.

After the children in the study completed nine months of musical instruction using Boomwhackers -- percussion tubes cut to the exact length to create pitches in a diatonic scale, DTI results showed an increase in FA and axon fiber length in different areas of the brain, most notably in the minor forceps.

The researchers believe that the results of this study could aid in creating targeted strategies for intervention in treating disorders like autism and ADHD.

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