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60-Second Science

This Is Your Brain On Arts

A three-year, multi-institutional study finds that early training in performing arts is really good for the brain. Steve Mirsky reports. For more info, go to www.dana.org

Are smarter people drawn to music, theater and dance? Or does arts training in childhood change the brain in positive ways?  In 2004, the philanthropic Dana Foundation created a consortium of neuroscientists from seven universities to address those questions.  On March 4, the group released a report, Learning, Arts, and the Brain, available at dana.org. Some of the findings:
 
An interest in performing arts helps develop sustained attention spans, which can improve other areas of cognition.  Links exist between training in music and the ability to manipulate information in both short-term and long-term memory.  Music training also appears to improve kids’ capacity for geometric representation, as well as the acquisition of reading skills.  Acting classes lead to improved memory, via better language skills.  Dance learning is done through observation and mimicry, and that training appears to improve other cognitive skills.  So science says that dance, theater and music can make life full of sound and glory, signifying something.

—Steve Mirsky

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