The study began with a pre-test of all students for biological responses, cognitive responses, and emotional –social behavior. Students went into one of two groups–a control group without music education, and a group with music education. After the first year, students took a post-test, and they continued in their groups for another two years.
The results were incredible, said Kraus, as those students who never participated in HP followed the current national average of showing diminished reading scores year after year. However, students who did receive music education increased their reading scores year after year.
Students in HP also improved in speech perception in noise—a skill most musicians acquire. Those in the control group did not experience improvement in speech perception in noise.
Kraus is currently evaluating the data for CPS.
She also noted that the skills students learn while studying music don’t diminish the effects on the brain later in life.
“The brain continues to profit even after you stop playing music. Forty-five young adults at Northwestern [University] participated in a study that showed if a person had five or more years of music education he or she is able to process sound more accurately and filter out noise,” she said.
“Music has the power to shape human brain function within one’s lifespan,” she concluded. “We really are what we do.”
For more information on Kraus’ study, as well as more information on how music enhances sound processing for language and cognitive skills, as well as offsets the academic gap “between the rich and poor,” and alters the nervous system to create a better learner, check out the Auditory Neuroscience Lab.
Beyond funded programs
Though the Harmony Project’s Martin suggests schools, districts, and states use this neuroscience research to invest remediation funds into music education, she realizes that a community-funded and supported program like HP isn’t always available to all communities.
That’s why music education stakeholders, like musician Quincy Jones, promote software and inexpensive apps for interested students and educators.
(Next page: Inexpensive software and apps for music education)