While there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that music training benefits brain development, the evidence is not conclusive and rigorously designed randomized control trial (RCT) neuroimaging studies are needed to provide a definitive answer to whether and which brain circuits are enhanced by music training and how. We aim to address this gap: we propose an RCT to robustly test the hypothesis that systematic music training will benefit development of brain inhibition control circuitry among Hispanic youth from underserved communities. Prior work including ours provided suggestive evidence that long-term music training in children may lead to neuroplastic functional changes in the associated frontal brain circuitry and improvement of inhibitory control.
During the R61 phase, we will test the feasibility (recruitment, retention, adherence and intent to continue) of a RCT on 40 Hispanic children between ages 6-8, of whom will be assigned to a 24-month intervention trial targeting community and group-focused after school music training (MG) or to an after-school program comprising arts, book clubs, ethnic and culture studies without specific focus on systematic music training, the control group (CG). We will use multi-modal imaging and behavioral probes to measure two aspects of inhibition control: (1) response inhibition by using a stop-signal task and (2) delayed gratification using a computerized task wherein children will be asked to choose immediate vs. delayed monetary rewards. Neuroimaging measures will be obtained twice, pre and post 2-yr intervention. Behavioral measures will be obtained at baseline and yearly thereafter. During the R33 phase, we will additionally recruit 74 Hispanic children between ages 6-8 and assess them with the same imaging and behavioral measurements using the same testing timeline as in R61. This is the first RCT using neuroimaging to assess whether and how music training enhances brain inhibition control circuitry. By focusing on Hispanic children from underserved communities our results will shed light on the effects of music training on development of brain function. And early life brain-to-behavior changes induced by music training may have long-term positive effects on an individual's health and success.