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Music, Brain, and Development

  • Wurstküche 625 Lincoln Boulevard Venice, CA, 90291 United States (map)

Assal Habibi, PhD


Over the past two decades, music training has been associated with better than average language and mathematical skills and higher IQ, while differences between musicians and nonmusicians have been found in brain areas related to hearing and movement, among others. What is the mechanism behind such differences? One important goal of my work is to understand the effects of music training on brain development, investigated in terms of psychological (emotional, cognitive, social) and neural functions. In this talk, I will present findings from a 5-year longitudinal study in collaboration with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and their youth orchestra program (YOLA) and Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), on the effects of group-based music training on children’s brain, emotional, cognitive, and social development. I hope that findings from this study lead to a better understanding of the benefits of musical training in general and provide insights into the social and psychological merits of childhood music education.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Assal Habibi is an Assistant Research Professor of Psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute at University of Southern California. Her research takes a broad perspective on understating child development. She is interested in how biological dispositions and environment interact and how early childhood learning experiences shape the development of cognitive, emotional and social abilities. She is an expert in the use of electrophysiologic and neuroimaging methods to investigate human brain function and her research have been published in several peer reviewed journals. Dr. Habibi completed her doctoral work at the UC Irvine Department of Cognitive Science, focusing on investigating the effects of long term musical training on pitch and rhythm processing by assessing brain activity during music listening in adult musicians, non-musicians and patients with auditory impairments. Currently, along with Drs. Antonio and Hanna Damasio, she is the lead investigator of a 5-year longitudinal study investigating the effects of early childhood music training on the development of brain function and structure as well as cognitive, emotional, and social development. Dr. Habibi is a classically trained pianist, and has many years of musical teaching experience with children which have always been a personal passion.