Music Instruction Reorganizes the Brain

Feb 6, 2010 Amy Croan

Music Instructions Help Kids With Dyslexia - Salvatore Vuono
Music Instructions Help Kids With Dyslexia - Salvatore Vuono
Intense focus on rhythms and changing sounds over time helps dyslexic students to perform better in reading.

According to the National Institutes of Health, traditional treatment for children with dyslexia – a cognitive inability to phonologically arrange language symbols – involves modified teaching and tailored systematic instruction developed by clinicians, teachers, school counselors and parents. Sometimes called a perceptibility handicap, dyslexia usually exists in people of normal intelligence and health, and is sometimes viewed as a learning disability.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) testing on children aged 9 to 12, in a study conducted by Dr. Nadine Gaab of the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at Children’s Hospital Boston, showed that brains responded to fast- and slow-changing sounds, similar to voice patterns in speech. In the control group, 11 areas of the brain became more active when normal children listened to fast-changing music, but the dyslexic children did not show this increased brain activity, indicating that dyslexia is a visual and aural impairment.

Effects of Music Training

When music exercises were repetitively played on a computer during an intense eight-week period, Dr. Gaab noted that the fMRI images showed increased activity. The structured Suzuki Method of piano instruction also accomplishes this. An integrated approach incorporates, among other things, group and individual lessons, rhythm games, daily listening to the assigned pieces and repetitive practice. Skills of looking, listening, simultaneous attention to hand movements and coordinated eye/hand control can be developed from the early ages of three or four.

Hearing Properly Extends to Clarity in Reading

This type of routine practice enables those less active areas of the brain to become reorganized, and over time, the brain can learn to reconnect and build a new network, according to Dr. Gaab. This increased neurological activity helps children hear sounds correctly, so reading sounds like "da," "ba," "wa," and "ga" will no longer be a source of confusion.

It may be especially helpful to begin music training before a child is able to read, allowing those areas of the brain to reorganize and have those connections already somewhat developed.

Integrated Treatment for DyslexiaReading, writing, mathematics, and musical notation may come slowly for people with dyslexia, but they often possess innovative and creative abilities, and superior brain organization in other cognitive areas. Dyslexics think in pictures and often excel at any type of learning that is not language-based.

Under-performance in school can lead to lack of confidence, depression, and feeling like an outsider. The special talents dyslexics inherently possess can be concurrently encouraged with reading development through multisensory and holistic methods.


ScienceDaily. Sound Training Rewires Dyslexic Children's Brains For Reading, November 4, 2007 (accessed February 5, 2010).

The European Suzuki Association. Music and Dyslexia - and How Suzuki Helps, December 2, 2009 (accessed February 5, 2010).

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. NINDS Dyslexia Information Page, March 12, 2009 (accessed February 5, 2010).

International Suzuki Association. The Suzuki Method, 2005 (accessed February 5, 2010).

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