Research at the UC-San Diego look at a non-pharmacological method for treating those with ADHD.
The type of child who is described as being overly active and not listening to others has been around for a very long time. The condition was first described as far back as 1902. Nowadays, the professionals call this type of behavior ADHD. Opinions abound as to why there appears to be an increase in ADHD. But for the children, and adults, who have it, what matters most is finding something to help.
The increase in brain research in recent years is a boon to all kinds of questions including ADHD:
- How does learning take place?
- How can we improve it?
- What affects the ability to focus?
- And how can we improve that?
Furthermore, the development of powerful computer technology allows researchers to track what goes on in the brain in real time.
Developing a Sense of Time & Rhythm Is Key
Researchers in San Diego believe that learning to play musical instruments can help people focus attention and improve ability to interact with the world around.
They believe our sense of time and rhythm is the foundation for every human interaction. Therefore, they wondered whether learning to play a musical instrument, increasing skill with time and rhythm, would help youngsters focus attention.
Research at UC – San Diego
Alexander Khalil began the research after several years of noticing that children who lacked the ability to “keep time” in a group also struggled to pay attention during other activities. Then he noticed, as their musical ability improved, so did their attention.
Khalil lead a project with children where they play ensemble music with a type of percussion instrument. The music is Gamelan, traditional ensemble music of Indonesia. The children learn to play together, keeping the beat.
Khalil’s team planned the experiment to see if children could then apply the focus they gained to other activities. His team wanted to know if learning to synchronize musically in a group setting could improve ability to focus attention.
Synchronizing isn’t doing something exactly at the same time. Khalil says it “actually means processing time together – perceiving time together in such a way that we have this common understanding of how time is passing.”
The team has found that the ability to focus has a direct correlation on results of cognitive tests. It makes sense. If you are focused on the test questions, you will most likely do better.
Khalil wonders: Is it possible that music practice could become a non-pharmacological intervention for problems such as ADHD? His team hasn’t tested this hypothesis yet, but he feels it is an exciting possibility.
I believe that we shouldn’t wait for the research results to come out years down the road, but to give the ADHD child the opportunity for music lessons. What if it would help? What if learning to play in a group helps focus attention and change the brain? What if learning to focus during lessons transfers to other tasks?
The beauty of the Suzuki Violin Method is that in addition to individual lessons, students play in groups. In our studio, children have a group class each week where they have opportunity to play together. In addition, our studio has public performances almost monthly where the students play together. Doesn’t this give them an opportunity “to perceive time together“?
Yet, the intrinsic benefit of knowing how to play the violin is worth it even if focus never entered the conversation.
Featured Image: video
“Children who have musical training do better at school.” Paula Tallal