A lot of people agree that listening to music is good for you, but could it also help us learn something new? It turns out that a study from last year is hopeful on the subject. The paper itself has one of the most inaccessible titles of all time, “Diffusion tensor MRI tractography reveals increased fractional anisotropy (FA) in arcuate fasciculus following music-cued motor training,” but the study itself is actually quite simple.
The U.K.-based investigation took 30 right-handed subjects in good health, aged 18 to 30, and taught them to complete a task using their left hand with or without listening to music. Over four weeks, the researchers didn’t find a significant difference in the outcomes of the two groups. But the MRI scans of the participant’s brains showed a change in the structure of the brain’s white matter in the music listener group.
This is the first study that gives us evidence that adding music to the learning method can restructure the brain. While firm conclusions can’t be drawn from this study since the outcomes didn’t differ, it opens the door for future studies into this subject.
The most interesting part is that participants listening to music physically changed their brain in a relatively short period of time. What changes happen in the brain over a few months or a lifetime of listening to music?
While this was relatively short and included only healthy test subjects, it’s exciting to think about the future possibilities with learning and music combined. Will future studies give more treatment possibilities for stroke victims and patients suffering from dementia? Or will kids in grade school hear the soft hum of Bach over their speakers during math? The possibilities to learn something new are endless.
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