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Music boosts children’s academic performance

Learning music can help children perform better in academics, say researchers of VU University of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The study published in the Frontiers in Neuroscience (February) found that structured music lessons significantly boost children’s cognitive capabilities, including language-based reasoning and short-term memory.  

The researchers, together with a centre for arts education, studied 147 children in Dutch schools, using a structured music pedagogy developed by the ministry of research and education.

The surveyed schools followed the regular primary school curriculum as well as offered classes in music or visual arts. After 2.5 years, the academic performance and various cognitive capabilities including planning, inhibition and memory skills of all children were assessed. “Children who received music lessons showed improved language-based reasoning and the ability to plan, organise and complete tasks, as well as improved their academic scores,” says lead researcher Artur C. Jaschke. “This suggests that cognitive skills developed during music lessons can improve children’s cognitive capabilities in completely unrelated subjects, leading to overall improved academic performance.”  
 
 

New appendicitis diagnosis test for children 

Appendicitis detection in children is now a walk in the pARC. Researchers have developed a new paediatric appendicitis risk calculator or pARC to diagnose and treat appendicitis in children. This new method enables paediatricians to provide tailored medical and surgical guidance. 

According to a study published in Paediatrics (March), researchers used data collected from ten paediatric emergency hospital departments in the US to develop the risk calculator. Anupam Kharbanda, co-principal investigator of Childrens’ Hospitals, Minnesota, says pARC reduces medical tests and expenses. 

Appendicitis is the most frequent surgical emergency for paediatricians in US hospitals. Clinics commonly diagnose appendicitis through CT scans, but this diagnostic process is expensive and exposes children to the risk of radiation-induced injuries.

 

Canines reduce students stress

New research confirms that spending time with dogs boosts students wellness. According to a University of British Columbia, Canada, study released in March 2018, dog therapy sessions for stressed-out university students induced calmness and positivity. “Our findings suggest that therapy dog sessions have a measurable, positive effect on the well-being of university students, particularly stress reduction and feelings of negativity,” says Emma Ward-Griffin, lead author and research assistant at the University of British Columbia.

Researchers surveyed 246 university students before and after a dog therapy session. Participants reported significant reduction in stress levels and increased happiness. Though these sentiments were of short duration, students continued to report slightly less negative emotions and stress, compared to students who didn’t participate in the dog therapy sessions. The researchers also found that both male and female students benefitted equally from canine therapy. 

 

Maternal stress affects foetal brain development

A study presented at a recent conference of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society in Boston, indicates that maternal stress during pregnancy changes neural connectivity in foetal children. “We have demonstrated what has long been theorised, but not proved that maternal stress during pregnancy is reflected in connectional properties of her child’s developing brain,” says Moriah Thomason of Wayne State University, which conducted the study.

Advancements in foetal imaging enabled Thomason and her team to study a critical time period in foetal brain development. Using resting-state MRI, they examined functional connectivity in 47 foetal infants who were scanned between the 30th and 37th week of gestation. The researchers studied pregnant women in low-resource and high-stress urban settings, with many reporting high levels of depression, anxiety and stress. They found that the foetuses of mothers reporting high stress have reduced neural functional efficiency. “It is the first time that imaging has shown the direct influence of maternal stress on foetal brain development, independent of influences of the post-natal environment,” says Thomason.