Studies have proven growing up in poverty stricken neighborhoods can hinder brain development in children, which manifests a reduced ability to quickly distinguish speech patterns. But studying music may help level the playing field, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. It showed that six- to nine-year-olds living in gang-ridden Los Angeles who spent two years participating in a free music program processed the sound of certain syllables faster than their peers who had less musical training.
“This research demonstrates that community music programs can literally remodel children’s brains in a way that improves sound processing, which could lead to better learning and language skills,” reports lead author Nina Kraus of Northwestern University. Kraus looked at a total of 44 students from Los Angeles public schools, all of them living in designated gang-reduction zones. Eighteen students were enrolled in the Harmony Project music program in the first year, and for the other 26, music lessons were deferred for one year. At the end of the second year, all of the participants underwent neurophysiological testing. The students with two years of training showed marked improvement in neural differentiation of syllables, and across both groups, more music training meant larger enhancements in neural function.