Learning with Music Can Change Your Brain

Learning with music can change your brain

In a small study recently published in the journal Brain & Cognition, researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that "using music to learn a physical task could help develop an important part of the brain," IFLScience.com reported.

30 right-handed volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 were split into two groups and had to tap out sequences on the finger and thumb of their left hand three times a week for 20 minutes over four weeks. One group learned with musical cues, the other without. Data was recorded using a gaming glove and software specifically designed for this study.

While both groups performed equally well at the end of the four weeks, MRI scans showed that the music group "had a significant increase in the structural changes of the arcuate fasciculus" - the part of the brain responsible for the white matter "that links the hearing and motor regions in the right side of the brain." The scans of the non-music group showed no changes. 

"The study suggests that music makes a key difference," lead study author Dr. Katie Overy said. "We have long known that music encourages people to move. This study provides the first experimental evidence that adding musical cues to learning a new motor task can lead to changes in white matter structure in the brain."

Study co-author Rebecca Schaefer told IFLScience.com that this "finding was important because it shows us how the type of learning affects learning-related brain changes, even when the end result is the same. 'It is one of the first studies to show this within such a short time window (four weeks), and opens up many interesting questions for future research,' she said."