This is your brain (imagine picture of brain: gray, flat, boring). This is your brain on music (brain is multi-colored! pulsating! expanding!). Cute, you say, but what qualifies YOU, Robin Robinson, to write about the brain? True, I did not encounter much neurological research in the pursuit of my BFA in Musical Theater. (ok, any). But I am very interested in the brain; specifically the tiny brains of all of my little students! And when I see them "tapping tapping, tapping for the Hello Song" or just STARING at me, taking it all in, I SWEAR I can see their little brains expanding! I just read an article to support my theory; it's called, "How Music Helps To Heal The Injured Brain". I know; the little brains in question aren't injured. But they are small and still forming, and I think the analogy holds up. Take this idea: "The brain areas involved in music are also active in processing language, auditory perception, attention, memory, executive control and motor control. Music efficiently activates these systems and can drive complex patterns of interactions between them." Think about all the things that are happening when we sing, say, "Open and Shut Them" in class. I start dramatically with my hands in fists - they know what song it is and get excited because they love it: memory and emotion. The act of opening and shutting their hands in rhythm, and especially the little clap ("give a little clap" - clap!): motor control. Then there is the processing of the language, the auditory perception in noting when we speed up the ending ("but...do not let them in!"), and the intense attention dedicated to doing or watching the song. I don't mean to knock the other methods of stimulation for children: reading, drawing, movement. It's just that music class stimulates ALL the brain centers at the same time!! Just sayin'.
The article goes on to talk about the specific research results in how music can help with brain injuries related to movement and speech. It is truly fascinating and, I think, very relevant - you can read the whole article here.
One last quote from the article: "Exposure and experience will create new and more efficient connections between neurons in the brain." I think the word "repeated" is inherent in that sentence: "repeated exposure". As in not just one semester of Music Together®, but many. With the spring semester just around the corner, is this my sneaky attempt to get you to reenroll? Yes, it is. But it is also just a reminder that class is not just wicked fun; it's also wicked beneficial.
Great post, Robin! Did a lot of cognitive science stuff in college and this all makes sense/holds water. Wesley STILL grins at me whenever I start singing "Biddy-biddy-bum-bum" or "Hell-o to Wesley, so glad to see you!" I swear he remembers and wants to sing along. We can't make it to next semester (out of town a bunch) but we are so planning to register for a future semester! Can't wait to see you again soon!
There is actually lots of work to support this. Learning music is much like learning a second language and causes whole new areas of the brain to 'light up' in addition to enhancing the language centers in the brain. In fact, neurologist and stroke rehab physicians are well aware of this; one way to help a stroke victim who cannot talk is to get them to sing. Amazingly, many people who lose their speak due to a stroke can still sing. People can then learn to turn their singing back into talking. And we all know how singing things helps the memory-- who can say the ABC's without singing the tune?