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How Does the Brain Learn Through Music?


How Does the Brain Learn Through Music? Kansas State University Music Symposium 2008 Laurie J. Curtis Purpose for today s presentation- Identify factors that link ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: How Does the Brain Learn Through Music?

How Does the Brain Learn Through Music?
  • Kansas State University
  • Music Symposium
  • 2008
  • Laurie J. Curtis

  • Music can move us to the heights or depths of
    emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or
    remind us of our first date. It can lift us out
    of depression when nothing else can. It can get
    us dancing to its beat. But the power of music
    goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies
    more areas of our brain than language
    does---humans are a musical species.
  • Oliver Sacks

Purpose for todays presentation-
  • Identify factors that link music to cognitive
  • Explore some of the ways music can enhance the
    brains response to content
  • Describe ways the music educator can facilitate
    learning through increased engagement in learning

Center on Education PolicyRevised December 2007
Choices, Changes, and Challenges Curriculum
and Instruction in the NCLB Era 349 school
districts Since 2002 62 districts reported
that they have increased time for English
Language Arts and Math
  • 44 of districts reported cutting time from one
    or more other subjects or activities- decreases
    averaging 145 minutes per week (nearly 30 minutes
    a day)
  • These increases/ decreases were more prevalent in
    districts with schools identified for

Recommendations from the Center on Education
  • Stagger testing requirements to include tests in
    other academic subjects
  • Encourage states to give adequate emphasis to art
    and music
  • Require states to arrange for an independent
    review at least once every three years for high
    quality standards and rigor
  • Provide federal funds for research to determine
    the best ways to incorporate the teaching of
    reading and math into social studies and science.

Item 2
  • States should review their curriculum
    guidelines to ensure that they encourage adequate
    attention to and time for art and music, and
    should consider including measures of knowledge
    and skills in art and music among the multiple
    measures used for NCLB accountability.

What do you know about cognitive science?
  • Spaced rehearsal are more conducive to learning.
  • You learn something new by connecting to
    something you already know.
  • Movement, emotion, memory activate different
    parts of the brain.
  • Brain plasticity means the brain is dynamic-
    changing based on experience.

Cognitive science?
  • The brain needs hydration and sleep to function
  • Emotional response will increase memory of an
  • Stress which continues over time can change the
    brains ability to function efficiently.
  • Musical training affects the organization and
    anatomical structure of the brain.

Multiple cognitive pathways leading to learning
Multiple cognitive pathways leading to learning
Emotional Response
Memory- how are memories stored and accessed?
  • Putting information to music is valuable for
    those of all ages (automatic memory).
  • Using dramatic music as background while reading
    or discussing material can make information more
    meaningful (emotional memory).
  • Associating music with a special event will make
    the event memorable (episodic memory).

Do you think being musical is a gift?
  • Why or why not?
  • (Research by Stefan Koelch)

Musicophilia Tales of Music and the Brain, by
Oliver Sacks
  • Tales and case-studies involving the power of
    music in the lives of humans.
  • Musicophilia is a given in human nature and is
    developed or shaped by our culture and the
    situations of our lives.

  • Amusia
  • Sensory deficits/ Gifts
  • Williams syndrome- extraordinarily responsive to
    music/ extreme low IQ
  • Alzeimers
  • Dementia
  • Parkinsons Disease
  • Musical Hallucinations

The use of musical imagery-
  • When listening to familiar music with gaps fMRI
    scans indicate that the auditory cortex is
    activated---whether or not the songs had lyrics
    or not.
  • Deliberate, conscious, voluntary mental imagery
    involved not only the auditory and motor cortex,
    but regions of the frontal cortex involved in
    choosing and planning.

Butdid you know that
  • Imagining music can activate the auditory cortex
    and motor cortex almost as strongly as listening
    to itand conversely imagining the action of
    playing music stimulates the auditory cortex.
  • (musicians stating that they feel they can hear
    their instruments during mental practice.)

Brain Waves(M. Sprenger)
  • Music affects the brain by releasing endorphins
    and affecting the electricity in the brain-
    measured in waves (measured by an EEG). The
    speed, regularity, and patterns can determine
    what type of learning is taking place. These
    waves are the speed at which the neurons are
  • Delta
  • Theta
  • Alpha
  • Beta

Delta Waves
  • Sleep- 1-3 cycles per second
  • No conscious learning taking place
  • Brain disposes of useless information
  • New memories are rehearsed (practice during

Theta Waves
  • Occurs usually twice during each night- 4-7
    cycles per second
  • Very relaxed- not on a conscious level- except
    through meditation or relaxation therapy
  • Very receptive to memory making at this state

Alpha Waves
  • Relaxed alertness- 8-12 cycles per second
  • Facilitates learning and heightens memory
  • (Baroque Music with 40 60 beats per
  • This music tends to slow down respiration, heart
    rate, and reduces stress.

Beta Waves
  • run, see, go, do waves 12 40 cycles per
  • Needed for new learning and new memory
  • Used when talking and problem solving
  • Full attentiveness
  • Time in this state is very limited- we must use
    it wisely!

To remember
  • Your brain utilzes several types of waves- but
    one will be dominant at a specific time.
  • There must be a delicate balanced for clear
    thinking and learning to occur.
  • Music can affect a students level of arousal and
    teachers can use types of music to elicit a
    desired state of enhanced learning.

Linking of Cambournes Conditions of Learning to
Music/ Brain Research
  • Immersion
  • Demonstration
  • Engagement
  • Expectation Responsibility
  • Employment
  • Approximation Response

  • An enriched learning environment - both
    physically and academically- increases the weight
    of cells, branching dendrites and increasing
    synaptic responses in the brain. Student
    differences in learning styles are to be
    considered when designing environment and making
    curricular decisions.

To immerse the students in content the music
educator can
  • Allow for multiple opportunities to study various
    styles of music which are appropriate to a
    childs world. Reach for rigor!
  • Lullabies
  • Patriotic music
  • Ballads
  • Pop-culture/ jingles/ media music
  • This can also occur through the labeling of items
    in the room, literature shared, colors, textures,
    props, multi-media presentation.

  • Children need to have opportunities to observe
    skillful modeling of the targeted task.
  • The brain changes as a result of experiences. New
    dendrites are formed to hook new information to
    prior experience.
  • Remember yesterday when we

The music educator can use demonstration to
  • Model a musical style, sing/play with expression
    to provide a target for the student. Provide
    written and auditory modeling for students.
  • Additionally- make sure your students can hear
    and see your love for the piece of music being

  • Children need to be active participants in the
    music classroom.
  • Utilize the idea of brain plasticity and
    recognize that the brain is in a constant state
    of change in response to experience. Each brain
    is unique- assembly-line learning violates a
    critical discovery about the human brain.
  • How about a review?

PasswordTeam 1
  • Adagio
  • Largo
  • Timbre
  • Waltz
  • Time signature
  • Treble cleft
  • Quarter note
  • soprano

Password Team 2
  • Pitch
  • Vibrato
  • Ballad
  • Key signature
  • Whole note
  • Oboe
  • alto
  • Accelerando

To keep students engaged the music educator can
  • Provide opportunities for students to sing, play,
    talk, reflect, write, work in small groups, see
    connections between what is occurring in the
    music classroom and the rest of their school

Expectation and Responsibility
  • The teacher must hold high expectations for all
    students achievement of excellence in order to
    develop their interest and aspiration to succeed.
  • Responsibility can be shared between student and
    teacher through the making of choices and levels
    of engagement.

The music educator can
  • Establish a safe and trusting environment with
    clear goals and expectations permit success.
    Teachers presence and support is critical.
  • The brains emotional center is tied to the
    ability to learn. Emotions, learning, and memory
    are linked. Positive emotions drive attention
    and memory (Wolfe Brandt, 1998).

Employment- Meaningful Use
  • Multiple areas of the brain are activated
    simultaneously when students apply singing,
    playing, reading, auditory input.
  • Musical training leads to better verbal memory as
    adults (Chan, 1998)
  • Musical training leads to an enlarged corpus
  • (Pantev et al. 1998)

The music educator can
  • Make sure students have a chance to take
    ownership as they perform their work for
    authentic audiences.
  • How can the students integrate what they have
    learned in a meaningful way- design the program,
    write the selection notes, share in discussion of
    order of selections

Michael Bitz (USA Today- 2008)
  • 250,000 fellowship (Mind Trust Fellowship) for
    children to write songs, create digital tracks,
    design cover art and market their own CDs.
  • There is just something about music that helps
    kids connect to themselves and the world at
    large. Im trying to capitalize on that in some

  • Songs are typically cognitive commentaries on
    dangers and opportunities.
  • ? Why did it take George Frederick Handle five
    minutes to say Hallelujah, for the Lord God
    Omnipotent reigneth?
  • By extending the vowel sounds and repeating words
    and phrases, songs slow down the expression of
    the basic message to attach the emotional power
    of melody, harmony, rhythm, and volume.

Approximation and Response
  • The brain is designed to perceive and generate
  • Music has an innate neurological base because all
    scaled forms of music are based on octaves,
    intervals, and harmonics. People vary in the
    hemisphere of the brain that activates in the
    processing of music- this appears to be related
    to the level of musical experience of the

The music educator can
  • Celebrate increased skill and performance level
    and allow children to track or monitor their
    own improvement. Provide evidence and allow
    children to reflect on growth of skill and
    ability. This leads to increased motivation
    through repeated rehearsal.

  • to follow a discipline of smooth, controlled,
    voluntary, cross-lateral movement, involving both
    hands- and possibly feet- while simultaneously
    tracking the notes on a page so as to anticipate
    the sounds to come is a great all-around workout
    for the brain.
  • Smith, 2005

  • Music has an uncanny manner of activating
    neurons for purposes of relaxing muscle tension,
    changing pulse, and producing long-range memories
    which are directly related to the number of
    neurons activated in the experiences
    (Weinberger, 1998)

  • Music offers educators a means of energizing or
    relaxing students, conveying content information,
    priming certain types of cognitive performance,
    and enhancing phonological awareness. (Smith,