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If There Were A Sure Fire Way to Improve Your Brain…

Okay, I have to admit, this is bit of a re-post, but according to my calculations, I figure any number of people missed the article and my blog, and the article is a winner.

A year ago, Cerebrum, published Michael Posner and Nancy Patoine’s How Arts Training Improves Attention and Cognition.

If there were a surefire way
to improve your brain, would you try it? Judging by the abundance of
products, programs and pills that claim to offer “cognitive
enhancement,” many people are lining up for just such quick brain fixes.
Recent research offers a possibility with much better, science-based
support: that focused training in any of the arts–such as music, dance
or theater–strengthens the brain’s attention system, which in turn can
improve cognition more generally. Furthermore, this strengthening likely
helps explain the effects of arts training on the brain and cognitive
performance that have been reported in several scientific studies, such
as those presented in May 2009 at a neuroeducation summit at Johns
Hopkins University.

For those of you who think that arts education isn’t brain surgery, well you’re right: it’s brain research.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not overselling the article, as it’s not our silver bullet. But, it’s a very interesting piece about work I believe is highly promising, and it’s written in a fairly accessible style for those who avoid scientific text. It’s got some good overall context and presents the challenge:

Taken as a whole, the
findings to date tell us that music training can indeed change brain
circuitry and, in at least some circumstances, can improve general
cognition. But they leave unsettled the question of under what
circumstances training in one cognitive area reliably transfers to
improvements in other cognitive skills. From our perspective, the key to
transfer is diligence: Practicing for long periods of time and in an
absorbed way can cause changes in more than the specific brain network
related to the skill. Sustained focus can also produce stronger and more
efficient attention networks, and these key networks in turn affect
cognitive skills more generally.

I wonder if such research will ultimately provide the silver bullet for arts education rationale. There is something new and promising, based on scientific rigor, coming from researchers at places like Johns Hopkins, that hold the promise of establishing a new narrative as to why arts education.

Why don’t you give it a read to see what you think?does-brain-size-matter_1.jpg


  1. Unfortunately, diligence is in short supply so it’s not worth it for me to get training since I pretty much know I can’t stick to it. Heck, I can’t even do my thrice a week walk/jog exercise regimen.

  2. A silver bullet indeed. I have a friend who does brain research. He describes what he sees when he maps musical performance as ‘multi-dimensional.”
    The value of creative work that involves serious practice and reflection becomes more pronounced when social aspects are taken into consideration. In addition to brain chemistry associated with imagination, memory, affect and problem solving; think about challenges associated with working in an ensemble, developing aesthetic preferences, performing for others, understanding how instruments work (and caring for them), mastering digital media and critiquing what was created.
    Psychosocial dimensions of learning such as these probably happen at every level of intentional musical expression, formal and otherwise. When concerned parents ask me what I think about kids starting rock bands, I remind them that organizing a rehearsal has educational value that is hard to find at school or at home. And that, of course, is just the beginning. What they are actually asking for is space to develop many of the capacities discussed in this post.

  3. Dolce Edallinerae says

    I’m still gossed out by the image.

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