High school music training can improve the teenage brain's responses to sound and sharpen hearing and language skills, a study says.
Music classes help enhance skills that are critical for academic success, the authors said.
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The results highlight music's place in the high school curriculum.
"While music programmes are often the first to be cut when the school budget is tight, these results highlight music's place in the high school curriculum," said Nina Kraus, senior study author and director of Illinois-based Northwestern University's school of communication.
The gains were seen during group music classes included in the schools' curriculum, suggesting in-school training accelerates neuro-development.
For the study, Kraus and colleagues recruited 40 Chicago-area high school students. Nearly half the students had enrolled in band classes, which involved two to three hours a week of instrumental group music instruction in school.
The rest had enrolled in fitness exercises during a comparable period. Electrode recordings revealed that the music group showed more rapid maturation in the brain's response to sound.
Moreover, they demonstrated prolonged heightened brain sensitivity to sound details. According to the authors, high school music training - increasingly disfavoured due to funding shortfalls - might hone brain development and improve language skills.
"Although learning to play music does not teach skills that seem directly relevant to most careers, the results suggest that music may engender what educators refer to as 'learning to learn," said Kraus in a study forthcoming in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
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"Our results support the notion that the adolescent brain remains receptive to training, underscoring the importance of enrichment during the teenage years," the authors said.