April, 2009

In This Issue:

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   A Message From Dr. Alice Cash:  Susan Boyle and her "unexpected" voice
A couple of weeks ago the airwaves, internet, and print media were all abuzz about the amazing Susan Boyle and her performance of "I Dreamed the Dream from "Les Miserables" on this hit English show "Britain's Got Talent."  Susan Boyle definitely has a God-given talent and sings with beauty and emotion rarely heard on these types of show.  She sings from the heart and has a voice that can truly be called a "healing voice."  The interesting thing about all the publicity though, stems from the fact that her appearance was so "plain and ordinary," so "un-glamorous and dowdy" (their words, not mine!) that the judges and the audience were expecting a very ordinary performance.  The look on their faces when she began to sing is just priceless!  If by some chance you haven't seen it, click HERE. For everyone whoever rooted for an underdog, Susan Boyle is a huge, socially redeeming case study!!

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   Medical study confirms that early music training positively affects brain development
  I think that most of us intuitively believe that early music training has a significantly positive impact on children's brains.  Numerous studies have been done that show that children who study piano, violin, and other instruments from the age of five (or thereabouts) score higher on standardized tests, have better vocabularies, and are often better-adjusted individuals!  For one thing, the discipline that music study imposes on young minds is important to developing a disciplined life and the rewards are positive and in many cases immediate! 

Recently my dear friend, Dr. Ellen Taliaferro sent me a study with commentary that I thing you'll find pretty exciting!

Commentary from Lutz Jšncke
This study supports my own interpretation of the brain's capability for experience-dependent influences on brain anatomy and function. In concrete, this study demonstrates that 6-year-old children receiving instrumental musical training for 15 months not only learned to play their musical instrument but also showed changed anatomical features in brain areas known to be involved in the control of playing a musical instrument. This is the first longitudinal study demonstrating brain plasticity in children in the context of learning to play a musical instrument.
One of the major questions in cognitive neuroscience is whether the human brain can be shaped by experience.  In order to examine use-dependent plasticity of the human brain, mostly cross-sectional studies are undertaken comparing subjects with specific skills with appropriate control groups. A classical approach is to compare highly skilled musicians, sportsmen, or subjects with other exceptional skills (e.g. synesthesia) with control subjects using neuroanatomical and neurophysiological measures (please see refs [1] and [2], on which I am an author, and refs [3,4]). Using this approach, several anatomical differences have been identified which can be attributed to the specific training influences these particular subjects have experienced. However, although these cross-sectional studies have uncovered several important findings, cross-sectional approaches are not valid enough to attribute the discovered between-group differences entirely to different learning influences. The only experimental
approach which is suitable to more validly identify experience-dependent influences in humans is the longitudinal experimental approach. Using this approach, the authors of this paper have examined 31 children with a mean age of 6 years) during the course of a 15-month period. Fifteen of these kids received musical instrument training (a weekly half-hour training outside the school system) while the 16 remaining kids did not attend these classes. However, all kids received the regular music lessons in their school, including playing with drums and bells. Thus, the 15 kids receiving keyboard lessons only differed in this particular feature. It turned out that these kids showed increased brain volumes in several brain areas after 15 months. Most of these brain areas are part of the cortical motor system. There were also structural changes in the auditory system. Taken together, this study is the first longitudinal study in children demonstrating structural changes in children receiving instrumental musical training. Thus, this study sheds new light on the plasticity of the human brain.
Faculty of 1000 Medicine: Evaluations, Dissents and Author responses for: [Hyde KL et al. Musical training shapes structural brain development. J Neurosci 2009 Mar 11 29 (10) :3019-25] 2009 Apr 1.

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   Music and the "swine flu?"
As I write this months issue there is great concern in the world about the "Swine Flu" and it's rapid spread around the globe.  This is a very serious issue and, of course, music cannot cure it or prevent it.  However, there is lots and lots of scientific date documenting that listening to music of your choice for as little as 30 minutes a day can actually boost your immune system significantly.  Of course if you can boost your immune system you can certainly be more resistant to the swine flu or any other type of flu.  So until the vaccine is created, pump up the volume on your favorite music, whether it be Mozart, oldies, reggae or gospel!  It will definitely make you feel better for at least they period that you're listening to it!  Better yet, get one of my new digital products that you can download directly to your iPod or computer and listen while you work!  To get the special package, click Healing Music Digital Package .


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   About Alice Cash
For nearly two decades, Dr. Alice Cash has been helping people use the music that they already love to heal their lives and increase their wellness quotient!  Dr. Alice Cash is one of the world's only clinical musicologists and holds a powerful and unique set of credentials.  She has worked with people and diagnoses of all kinds, enabling them to find healing, acceptance and hope.  To hear her speak, and watch in her in action is to have a day that will amaze, educate, motivate, and inspire you!  To hire Alice for your association or organization click here

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