Growing up, music was an important part of my childhood. I see it being just as important in my children and all children’s growth and development, and in a parent’s connection with their children. Ziggy Marley
By Laura Sanders September 3, 2014
Musical training tunes the developing brain, scientists report in the Sept. 3 Journal of Neuroscience. After two years in a music enrichment program, children in Los Angeles had more sophisticated brain responses to spoken syllables than kids who had only a year of training.
Researchers led by neuroscientist Nina Kraus of Northwestern University studied 44 children enrolled with the Harmony Project, an organization that brings music training to kids in low-income communities. The children began music lessons when they were on average 8 years old. After two years of lessons, but not one, kids’ brains showed distinct responses to the rapidly spoken sounds “ba” and “ga.”
Electrodes placed on the kids’ scalps revealed millisecond-scale differences in brain activity in response to the syllables, suggesting that the more musically trained brains were better at distinguishing between the sounds. This neural distinction has been linked to real-life skills such as reading and the ability to pick out speech from a noisy din, says Kraus.
She and her colleagues hope to expand their research and bring musical training to more children. “We’ve opened the window a crack, but I’m hoping it can be thrown wide open,” she says.
5 Ways Music Shapes the Brain
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- Improves literacy – Studies have found that when children learn to play an instrument, they can gain the ability to hear and process sounds that they wouldn’t hear without this training.
- Enhanced memory – Studies have found that even a year or two of musical training, such as learning to play an instrument, can improve both memory and focus in children.
- Better spatial reasoning skills – Classical music has been found to be particularly beneficial for special reasoning, in children and adults alike. For example, after listening to classical music adults can do a spatial reasoning task, such as putting a puzzle together, more quickly.
- Increased language skills – It’s known that music training enhances language-related networks in the brain and improves children’s ability to detect subtle differences between sounds, which can help facilitate accurate pronunciation.
- Higher IQ’s – The 2006 study found that for children, music lessons were positively correlated with higher school grades and higher scores on achievement tests. It also found that musical instruction was a predictor of higher IQs in young adulthood as well as higher high school grades.