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Playing an instrument just might make kids become stronger students.
Researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois believe that the music training helped students do better in school.
A two-year study of 44 children shows that the musical training changes the brain. It makes it easier to process sounds. The Journal of Neuroscience reported the improvement is linked to improved skills in reading and speech.
But there is one catch. People have to actually play an instrument to get smarter. They can't just crank up the tunes on their iPod.
Nina Kraus of Northwestern compared the difference to that of building up one's body through exercise.
Researchers studied the students over two years. One year of musical training didn't make a difference in brain changes. Two years did.
Adelina Flores, whose 11-year-old daughter, America, was a test subject, said she wasn't surprised. Her daughter had already told her she was getting better at math. Playing music, America said, had taught her to divide notes into fractions.
"She's improved a lot through this," Adelina Flores said. "And she's grown to be more confident, too."
Critical thinking challenge: Why do you need to play an instrument to get the benefits? What is the difference between playing music and listening to it?