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Study: Questioning the cognitive benefits of music classes

BabyMusicThe ‘Mozart effect’ of having kids study music? It’s only a myth, researchers find (Washington Post):

  • “Children get plenty of benefits from music lessons: Learning to play an instrument can be a great outlet for a child’s creativity, and the repeated practice can teach much-needed focus and discipline. What’s more, the payoff, whether it’s learning a new song or just mastering a new chord, is often a boost of self-esteem. But Harvard researchers now say that one oft-cited benefit — that studying music improves intelligence — is a myth… Read the rest of this entry »

Our Brain on Music: We need to do more than listen

.What’s The Size Of The Mozart Effect? The Jury Is In.

In a now well-known 1993 paper in Nature called “Music and spatial task performance”, Frances H. Rauscher and her colleagues report that participants who were exposed to the first movement “allegro con spirito” of the Mozart Sonata KV 448 for Two Pianos in D major scored significantly higher on standardized tests of abstract/spatial reasoning ability than those who were instructed to relax or those who just sat there in silence.

Even though the participants in Rauscher et al.’s study were college students, and they didn’t administer a full battery of cognitive tests to properly assess general intelligence, their findings translated into “play Mozart to your children and they will grow up smart.” A cottage industry was born. Read the rest of this entry »

Update: 2009 Market Report Finds Growth, Promise and Confusion

Here you have the April edition of our monthly newsletter covering cognitive health and Brain Fitnessbrain fitness topics. Please remember that you can subscribe to receive this Newsletter by email, using the box at the top of this page.

We are excited to release our 2009 market report The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009. To be formally released on May 4th but available now for our clients and readers, this report aims to inform decision-makers at healthcare, insurance, research, public policy, investment and technology organizations about important developments in the brain fitness and cognitive health space.

2009 Market Report

The State of the Brain Fitness Software Market 2009: This new 150-page report finds The State of the Brain Fitness/ Training Software Market 2009 reportsustained growth in the brain fitness software market (from $225m in 2007 to $265m in 2008) and promising seeds for future growth, combined with increased confusion given aggressive marketing claims and lack of education and standards. The report includes, for the first time, a Market & Research Momentum Matrix to categorize 21 key vendors, 10 Research Executive Briefs written by 12 leading scientists, and the complete results of our market survey with 2,000+ respondents. You can learn more, and acquire the report, Here.

News and Resources

Cognitive Health News April Round-Up: New cognitive track at the Games for Health conference, bilingual brains, poverty’s effect on the brain and working memory due to stress, diabetes, neuroenhancing drugs, Kellogg’s settlement with the FTC, neurocognitive testing in the military.

Normal Aging vs. Alzheimer’s Disease: Dr. Murali Doraiswamy shares his very insightful views on the key question, “How can we help the public at large to distinguish Alzheimer’s Disease from normal aging — so that an interest in early identification doesn’t translate into unneeded worries?”, based on his recent book The Alzheimer’s Action Plan.

Upcoming Guide

The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: It seems every week brings a new barrage of articles and studies which often contradict what you read the month before: Does Gingko Biloba improve memory? Can physical exercise help you stay sharp as you age? Which brain fitness program”, if any, is worth your money? Why is managing stress so important for memory and the brain?. This new book (available both in print and Kindle versions) aims to answer those questions -and more. We will send you an email announcement when the book is ready for purchase, in late May.

The Big Picture

Do Art Classes Boost Test Scores? Is there a “Mozart Effect?”: Some researchers suggest so; others are not convinced. Karin Evans, through our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine, offers a very thoughtful review of the evidence. She also challenges us by asking, “Now, is this the right question?”

Improving the world, and one’s brain, at the same time: The Goldman Environmental Prize recently recognized seven social entrepreneurs who are clearly helping improve the state of the world. Now, the “state of the world” does include their very own brains – as you may have seen in a recent study.

Brain Teasers

Brain plasticity and daily live: If you lived in London, and wanted to grow your hippocampus, which job would you choose?

Stimulate your Concentration Skills: when one really wants to memorize a fact, it is crucial to pay attention. Dr. Pascale Michelon challenges you to count a few simple letters.

Have a great May

Arts and Smarts: Test Scores and Cognitive Development

(Editor’s Note: we are pleased to bring you this article thanks to our collaboration with Greater Good Magazine.)

At a time when educators are preoccupied with standards, testing, and the bottom line, some researchers suggest the arts can boost students’ test scores; others aren’t convinced. Karin Evans asks, What are the arts good for?


When poet and national endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia gave the 2007 Commencement Address at Stanford University, he used the occasion to deliver an impassioned argument for the value of the arts and arts education.

“Art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and expressing the world,” said Gioia. “There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as stories, or songs, or images. Art delights, instructs, consoles. It educates our emotions.”

For years, arts advocates like Gioia have been making similar pleas, stressing the intangible benefits of the arts at a time when many Americans are preoccupied with a market–driven culture of entertainment, and schools are consumed with meeting federal standards. Art brings joy, these advocates say, or it evokes our humanity, or, in the words of my 10–year–old daughter, “It cools kids down after all the other hard stuff they have to think about.”

Bolstering the case for the arts has become increasingly necessary in recent years, as school budget cuts and the move toward standardized testing have profoundly threatened the role of the arts in schools. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2002, the federal government started assessing school districts by their students’ scores on reading and mathematics tests.

As a result, according to a study by the Center on Education Policy, school districts across the United States increased the time they devoted to tested subjects—reading/language arts and math—while cutting spending on non–tested subjects such as the visual arts and music. The more a school fell behind, by NCLB standards, the more time and money was devoted to those tested subjects, with less going to the arts. The National Education Association has reported that the cuts fall hardest on schools with high numbers of minority children.

And the situation is likely to worsen as state budgets get even tighter. Already, in a round of federal education cuts for 2006 and 2007, arts education nationally was slashed by $35 million. In 2008, the New York City Department of Education’s annual study of Read the rest of this entry »

Musical training as mental exercise for cognitive performance

We often hear (gladly!) how teachers use our blog articles and brain teasers in their classes. We also hear how many psychology and biology teachers are getting their students excited about brain research, and, to contribute to their efforts, we like to recognize some great initiatives.

Last year, Jeffrey Gonce, a Psychology teacher at Red Land High School (West Shore School District, PA) asked his students to “complete a project describing a recent brain (or genetic) study that affects behavior.” The students could opt to post their articles online, and Jeffrey was kind enough to send us a link to read the results. We enjoyed reading them all, and published in our blog this beautiful essay, titled “Tis better to give than receive”, written by Alexandra, which Piano musical training was subsequently included in a number of neuroscience an psychology blogs.

This year, Jeffrey also sent us his students’ essays, and we are going to recognize and publish this great essay by high school student Megan. Enjoy!
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It has long been the source of scientific debate as to whether music can improve the cognitive processes in children. Referred to by some as “The Mozart Effect,” a strong Read the rest of this entry »

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