Orff-based music training induces plasticity in the developing brain – a behavioral and neuroimaging longitudinal study
The Neurosciences and Music - VII
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Music training is a well-known model for studying plasticity. Here, we investigate near and far transfer effects of music training on children’s behavior and brain plasticity. We conducted a longitudinal training study to compare the effects of a 6-month collective Orff-based music training to those of an analogous training in sports and to a passive control group with no specific training. Fifty-eight children participated in the study (33 girls; mean age 8.29 years). Prior to training, children were pseudorandomly assigned to either one of the groups matched on major cognitive and demographic variables. Behavioral measures on cognitive abilities and brain structural MRI were collected at pre-test and post-test, and the training programs were conducted within the regular school activities of a low-income community. Music-specific benefits were found in near transfer domains, such as music and motor abilities, but far transfer effects in visuo-spatial short-term memory, pseudoword reading and simple arithmetics were also found. Music training drove plasticity on gray-matter volume of the left cerebellum that related to rhythm discrimination at pre-test and correlated with gains in motor performance, suggesting the role of music training in strengthening audio-motor integration. A short and affordable music training was sufficient to induce specific behavioral benefits partially reflected in plastic changes in the children’s brain.