When Plato said that music gives “wings to the mind,” he might have been onto something. Recent studies increasingly point to the power of music to shape the brain and boost its functioning. But despite a flurry of research documenting the positive effects of music lessons on the brain, there have been few controlled, longitudinal studies like Kraus’s that follow kids year after year and examine music’s impact on brain structure and function as it’s happening. Instead, most of the studies to date have compared the brains of musicians and non-musicians—or of students who have studied instruments to those who have not—and inferred that brain enhancements in music-makers stem from music training. Preliminary results suggest that school and community-based music instruction could possibly make a significant difference in the academic trajectory of lower-income kids.
Read also: How music alters the teenage brain