Brain and Body Percussion: The relationship between motor and cognitive functions

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Riikka Ahokas
Birgitta Burger
Marc Thompson


Body Percussion is a motor, rhythmic learning method within music education used to teach rhythmic structures. This activity is also used in common classrooms to improve students’ concentration and attention. Although the intervention is applied to enhance cognitive functions, effects of this method have not been studied neuroscientifically before. This study investigates embodied motor rhythmic exercises’ (e.g. Body Percussions) ability to enhance cognitive functions (planning skills). As the method has been applied successfully in music education for decades, results of this study were hypothesized to be positive.

The long-term effects of Body Percussion on planning skills were studied with pre- and post-measures of an executive functions test (computed neuropsychological test Tower of London). The training period lasted 2.5 months and consisted of 10-20 minutes of weekly Body Percussion training sessions (altogether ten sessions). Twenty-four 5th graders (average age: 11 years) from a local elementary school participated in the study. After the Body Percussion training period the experiment group (N=12) performed better compared to the control group (N=12).

Keywords: music education, rhythm, brain, executive functions

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