Science backs thinking that musical training for children makes you smarter
Life is a marathon and just like the physical body, if we want our brains to cross the finish line we need to train. We can get ahead by eating well and staying active, but one tip you might not have heard is that musical training for young people helps brain development.
A Canadian-based research group (led by Dr Laurel Trainor and Dr Takako Fujioka) performed a year-long study in 2006 and Oxford University Press reported their findings that children who studied music experienced significant “developmental changes” compared to those who did not. The children were assessed four times throughout the study and those studying music always stood out.
Dr Laurel Trainor, a professor of psychology co-leading the study states, “this is the first study to show that brain responses in young, musically trained and untrained children change differently”.
So, why this difference and how are these musically trained children more advanced?
Well…let’s take a look at the science.
The Dana Foundation’s Ben Mauk in 2009 reported on new research findings from Boston College Psychology Professor Ellen Winner and Beth Irael Deaconess Medical Centre’s Neurology Professor Gottfried Schlaug.
The pair found that music training in childhood improves related cognitive function and showed that children receiving weekly music instruction and practice regularly perform better on sound discrimination and fine motor tasks. The findings were backed by brain imaging showing changes to the networks associated with these abilities.
Professor Schlaug told The Dana Foundation, “this is the first study to show brain plasticity in young children as a function of instrumental music instruction And this is correlated with the amount of practice.
“It’d be difficult to find another activity that takes up so much real estate in the brain,” he added.
The Dana Foundation also reported that In 2009 at the “Learning and the Brain” Conference in Washington DC, Oregon University Professor Michael Posner said “Years of neuroimaging have now given us a plausible or putative mechanism by which arts training could now influence cognition, including attention and IQ”.
Whoa Nelly. Who would have thought?
Furthermore, Washington’s Hindustan paper in 2010 reported that Northwestern University study discovered that “musical training can aid in other forms of communication such as speech, reading and understanding a foreign language”.
The article explains research findings by Nina Kraus and Bharath Chandrasekaran that show auditory benefits of musical training are linked to how we process speech. A stronger ability to process sound can improve the speed and accuracy in which we understand pitch and translate language. This sensitivity to pitch can also help you better register emotion in people’s voices.
Ok, so music is good for young growing brains, but how young?
The McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario published an article in May this year reporting that babies as young as one-year-old benefit from music. Researchers at the university found “one-year-old babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents, smile more, communicate better and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses…” These classes involved learning songs and nursery rhymes with actions and completing activities with music on in the background.
These babies were also said to have had better communication skills by the end of the lessons.
So there you have it! Music and musical training has exemplary benefits for our kids. Better communication skills, increased attention spans and IQ’s. What more could we ask for?
Benita is currently working in the Melbourne office for NIYPAA. Her early back ground in music and performance stretches from musicals, to choir, singing and instrumental training. She has been managing and playing with Melbourne bands for the last eight years. She is a singer song writer, developing her latest band Elliot Friend. She looks forward to a successful career in creative arts administration while persisting in her musical endeavours.