HUNDREDS of North-East children are to take part in a pioneering study into how music can improve learning.

Researchers from Northumbria University are carrying out a £500,000 investigation into how dancing, playing and listening to music can help pre-school youngsters prepare for primary school.

The cash will pay for musicians to go into centres and play for youngsters, as well as buy musical instruments for them. Helen Taylor, head of music education at the university, will lead the research.

She said: "Embryonic research from psychologists shows that engaging in music stimulates various parts of the brain and enables children to listen in a more focused way, when they are introduced to new subject areas.

"Moving to music also stimulates blood to the brain which makes individuals more alert and receptive to learning.

"An holistic approach to the study, which includes making music and listening and moving to music, will enable us to gain further insight into the impact of each of these activities on young children's development and learning.''

The researchers will look at more than 400 children, aged from a few months to five years, in nurseries and primary schools in North Tyneside and Great Yarmouth.

The project will last three years and will track some of the younger children into primary school, to see if their music education has a direct impact on their learning. The research team has already carried out several studies which backed initial findings.