Music and the Arts Promote Heathy Cognitive Function

A session entitled “Arts, Music, and the Brain: How the Arts Influence Us from Youth to Maturity” drew a standing room only crowd in a late afternoon session on Tuesday at the Society for Neuroscience conference in San Diego.

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Credit: Shutterstock

Four speakers came at the topic from slightly different angles. The common denominator: In addition to anecdotal evidence and common sense, improved imaging and sound wave technology has helped neuroscientists demonstrate that arts and music boost cognitive function across social economic class, age, gender, and ethnicity.

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Music Makes Its Case for Neurological Respect

City Winery in Manhattan was a most appropriate venue to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function. And while not very much music was heard at the IMNF-sponsored forum, music’s impact on the brain was certainly in the air as neuroscientists, music therapists, and one rock music luminary covered the many ways in which music may affect brain development, cognition, and healing.

After all was said and done, however, one point seemed to hover above all the rest: the inability on the part of researchers to produce replicated studies that link the benefits of music to cognitive function.

Hart (left) and Gazzaley (right). Photo credit: Edward Bilsky

Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart (left) and neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley (right). Photo credit: Edward Bilsky

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Live Chat Tomorrow: “Do the Arts Make Us Smarter?”

At 3pm EST, Thursday, March 14, Science magazine will be running a free live chat called Do the Arts Make Us Smarter?, exploring the effects of arts education on the brain. Moderated by Science staff writer Emily Underwood, guests will be Daniel Levitin, who runs the Lab for Music Perception, Cognition, and Expertise at McGill University, and Keith Oatley, a psychologist at the University of Toronto who studies the effect of fiction on our emotions.

What sorts of questions will they answer? How about: Does learning the violin actually increase IQ or translate to better grades? Can drawing help students learn geometry? What other benefits can the arts provide, both in and beyond the classroom?

For those of you can’t tune in live, it will be archived on that same web page.

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