Music Programs Change Brains

Dr. Nina Kraus and her team of researchers at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University have published a new paper about the biological changes that happen in the brain when at-risk children participate in a community-based music program.  The researchers have found that at-risk children, who complete two years of music training showed “tangible biological changes” in auditory processing in the brain, specifically a stronger neurophysiological distinction of stop consonants, compared to a control group of students who did not participate in the music program. The changes in the brain affect an area that is linked to reading and language skill acquisition, leading the researchers to conclude that active and repeated engagement with sound changes neural functions, and can help at-risk children process speech.  According to the study, this research suggests that music training can influence automatic auditory processing, and “…may stave off certain language-based challenges.”


See “Music Enrichment Programs Improve the Neural Encoding of Speech in At-Risk Children” by Nina Kraus, Jessica Slater, Elaine C. Thompson, Jane Hornickel, Dana L. Strait, Trent Nicol, and Travis White-Schwoch, The Journal of Neuroscience, September 3, 2014 34(36):11913-11918; doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1881-14.2014 at


Also, see the ongoing research at the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at



The FYI Arts updates are written by Joan Platz, Research and Knowledge Director for the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education.  The purpose of FYI Arts is to keep arts education advocates informed about issues dealing with the arts, education, policy, research, and opportunities.  The distribution of this information is made possible through the generous support of the Ohio Music Education Association (, Ohio Art Education Association (, Ohio Educational Theatre Association (; OhioDance (, and the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (


About OAAE

Since our founding in 1974, by Dr. Dick Shoup and Jerry Tollifson, our mission has always been to ensure the arts are an integral part of the education of every Ohioan. Working at the local, state, and federal levels through the efforts of a highly qualified and elected Board of Directors, our members, and a professional staff we have four primary areas of focus: building collaborations, professional development, advocacy, and capacity building. The OAAE is funded in part for its day-to-day operation by the Ohio Arts Council. This support makes it possible for the OAAE to operate its office in Columbus and to work statewide to ensure the arts are an integral part of the education of every Ohioan. Support for arts education projects comes from the Ohio Arts Council, Ohio Music Education Association, Ohio Art Education Association, Ohio Educational Theatre Association, VSA Ohio, and OhioDance. The Community Arts Education programs of Central Ohio are financially assisted by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners and the Greater Columbus Arts Council. We gratefully acknowledge and appreciate the financial support received from each of these outstanding agencies and organizations.
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