Dec 15, 2009

Music and Learning

As we’ve seen before, learning to play a musical instrument can have a strong positive effect on the brain. For example, audible comprehension in accomplished music-makers is notably more acute than in less skilled individuals. But what effect does music have on the brain when we simply listen to it?

When you hear music, there is a lot going on in your head. Researchers have found that as you process the rhythm and modulating tone, sections of your brain responsible for language, memory, and motor control are stimulated.

What does this mean for learning? Some have proposed that there is a direct correlation between listening to a particular type of music and performance in cognitive function. One of the most famous examples of this is the “Mozart Effect”. Essentially, the term describes a briefly observed improvement in spatial-temporal reasoning after listening to the relaxing sounds of Mozart’s compositions.

Some, however, attribute this increase in performance to “enjoyment arousal”- basically, the sounds cause pleasure, which lead to a state of mildly enhanced cognitive ability. Nonetheless, the countering results have not stopped a monsoon of interest, including several parallel studies and even proposed legislation to provide schoolchildren with classical music recordings.

Regardless of the true power of the “Mozart Effect”, current research is in support of the use of music as a learning aid when the music in question employs a slow-tempo and non-percussive tonality (such as a Mozart sonata).

Anyone who needs to learn something should consider music to be another tool to employ where necessary. Perhaps classical is a good counter to construction happening next door, or perhaps the rhythms of jazz can be the right fit for memorizing key terms. Experiment and try to find the best fit for you.

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