Research: Music Education and Neurophysiological Regulation in Early Childhood

Eleanor D. Brown, Dr. Steven John Holochwost, Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf, Alyssa A. Allen, Mallory L. Garnett, Blanca Velazquez-Martin, Suzanne Varnell, Jessa L. Malatesta


Mind, Brain and Education

Should Teachers Guide or Get Out of the Way?

Special Issue Article in MindBrain and Education, 2023.


Access to high-quality early music education programs may mitigate the effects of poverty on the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, but fundamental questions remain about the role of early educators in conveying these benefits. In the current study, we measured the basal or resting cortisol levels of 76 children (Mage = 4.17 years; 42% female) over the course of the school day while they attended a Head Start preschool that included early music education classes. The results of a series of hierarchical linear models (HLMs) indicated that child-directed music and movement activities during these classes were associated with lower levels of cortisol (relative to teacher-directed activities; B = −0.019, p = .013), as were higher quality teacher–child interactions (B = −0.018, p = .013); both associations were moderated by child age. We discuss the implications of these results for future educational neuroscience research that seeks to inform early education programs for young children placed at risk by poverty.

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