Training Students in Arts can Improve Attention and Cognition

Posted by Tanya Sharma on December 2nd, 2020

In 1993, the Nature journal published a letter describing the findings of an interesting experiment. A few college students were selected randomly and were made to listen to classical music. The control group received no such exposure. When given an analytical test right after, the students who listened to music showed an improved spatial reasoning skill that is necessary for subjects like science and math. The observation came to be known as the “Mozart effect” and sent a ripple in the education sector, finally creating a connection between arts and cognition.

Today, almost all reputed CBSE schools in Noida Extension have arts as integral parts of the curriculum. The modern education system in India recognises that art can improve students’ performance and benefit them both on academic and emotional grounds. In this post, we discuss the science behind the stated connection and emphasise further the importance of STEAM rather than STEM. Let’s get started.

Arts, attention and the brain

The human brain develops by forming new neural connections. Our cognition forms through our exposures and experiences. The way we react to a situation gets engraved in the memory as a neural network and we behave in the exact same way the next time something similar happens. If we practice the reaction over and over, the neural network strengthens and the response almost becomes involuntary when the external stimulation happens around. Take tying our shoelaces or reacting to spilling hot milk for example.

Similarly, we learn to pay attention by developing such neural networks. And attention is crucial for learning and cognition. In the beginning, we struggle to focus our minds on a single thing. Hence, toddlers are generally more curious and less focused. But we can train ourselves to form a neural network that can keep the distracting thoughts away, not engage in anxious narratives and focus on just one task that we have at hand. With practice, we can solidify the attention neural network and the more attention we pay, the better we learn.

Researchers from the University of Toronto in 2004 found that arts, especially music, activate the same attention centres that play a crucial role in gathering academic knowledge. When they exposed children to music training for almost a year, these students showed greater IQ results than their peers who did not participate. More studies are constantly showing that arts actually train the attention neural network. Any art form requires concentration and practice which activates the attention neural network regularly. Neuroscience thus now states young children who engage in arts early show improved academic performance all throughout their schooling and this is why arts receive the same priority as education in the best school in Greater Noida.

But simple participation will not work

By the above logic, schools can simply have one art form in their curriculum and expect their students to perform impressively in academics. But the human mind is never that simple as each brain is unique in the way it forms a connection. The key variable here is attention. We are only attentive to something that we really enjoy. If music does not interest a student, he/she will receive all the wrong messages about attention and develop a corrupted neural network. Naturally, this attention connection will not help cognition. The student will be uninterested or distracted in academics as well.

Hence, the top CBSE school in Greater Noida has choices when it comes to arts. Students are given the freedom to indulge in dance, music, painting, sculpture, drama and more. The motive is to encourage children to pick up an art form that they can be passionate about and pursue it attentively. As students get lost in arts, that is when they are paying the most attention. The neural network is getting practice to keep all distractions away and focus with the utmost concentration. Later, academics will use this same network to further cognition and such students will obviously show improved performance.

The ethos of BGS Vijnatham is hinged on the neuroscience of education. Every academic aspect of the school’s curriculum has been crafted depending on some scientific evidence. Its focus on arts has the same reason as the school understands that art improves both cognition and mental well-being, giving the students a break from constant monotony and expanding their imagination’s horizons. BGS follows a STEAM curriculum from day one. The school makes students passionate about arts and develops students by exposing them to a productive environment that builds all the right neural connections. After all, how we learn in our childhood ultimately shapes who we become as adults.

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Tanya Sharma

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Tanya Sharma
Joined: October 19th, 2019
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