The screeches of novice violinists are catching the attention of a group of San Diego brain and development scientists.
A new study launched this spring aims to explore what physically changes in the brains of 15 kids learning music for the first time, and whether that helps the students learn better in other areas, over five years.
Until a few decades ago, consensus held that our brains were not capable of changing much after a critical period in childhood. Now scientists know human brains change throughout life. They have a name — brain plasticity — to describe how experiences can change structures within the brain or the entire brain itself.
Finding out what experiences do what in the brain could upend some long-held education traditions. A kid struggling in math could be enrolled in music to strengthen the weak spots in her brain, rather than sit through times tables sessions after school.
This spring, kids between 5 and 10 years old are sliding into brain-scan chambers at UC San Diego and concentrating for a few hours on reading, mathematical and musical exercises. They’ve just begun taking music classes this school year, and as they advance, they’ll go back for re-testing.