“Harvard President Drew Faust recently wrote of students overlooking the benefit of following their “interest in art or linguistics or any of the other humanity disciplines.” The trend towards employable subjects like math and science is reflected in decisions of college students as well as decision-making in primary and secondary schools.
The president of Harvard is not alone in her concern. Groundbreaking work of cognitive neuroscientists reveals what public schools think of as “extras” are central to strengthening our minds. Studying art or music as a child might do more for your adult brain and long-term economic prospects than studying biology.
Take music as an example. A study by Virginia Penhune at Concordia University shows that musical training, particularly instrumental training, produces long lasting changes in motor abilities and brain structure. The earlier a child starts instrumental training, the stronger the connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. These changes last into adulthood and are proven to affect the ability to listen and communicate as an adult. Nina Krauss, a cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University, just released a study that older adults who took music lessons at a young age can process the sounds of speech faster than those who did not, even if they haven’t picked up an instrument in 40 years. Science shows that children (and even adults) who play an instrument 30 minutes a week over the course of a little over a year have more highly developed brains.
How about physical education? While further afield from the humanities, new research reveals children who get aerobic exercise transform their brains due to a protein that is elevated during exercise acting as a sort of “miracle-gro.” Exercise matters deeply for cognitive development for kids.
Concentration, strong recall skills, evolved communication skills, and being a good team player are just a few of the benefits research shows music, foreign language, art and physical education have on a developing mind.”
-US News and World Report