Thursday, November 23, 2006

Music Lessons Increase Brain Development in Children

After a year long comparison between children who had musical lessons and those who didn’t, researchers have found a difference in brain development between the groups. Scientists at McMaster University in Canada say that children who received music lessons had better memories. The study also found a higher literacy and math level among the group. According to the study, it is the first of its kind to study the effects of musical lessons over a complete year.

This study focused on children aged 4 to 6 years old. Perhaps the most surprising aspect to the entire study was its effect on children as young as 4 years old. The effects of musical lessons stretch far beyond the music itself. The study found that the memory performance related to learning music can be stretched to a wide variety of subjects. Among the subjects improved are verbal memory, literacy, and mathematics. Possibly the broadest finding of the entire study was that music lessons may even improve IQ.

The Study
This research was completed on only twelve children. The twelve were then split up into two groups. The first took no music lessons and was comprised of four boys and two girls. A second group which did participate in music lessons consisted of five boys and a girl. The music lessons the children participated in are known as Suzuki music lessons. The key of these lessons is to allow children to listen to music and attempt to imitate it before they know how to read music.
All of the children were subjected to two different sounds throughout the study and their brain activity was monitored while the sound was played. The first sound was that of a violin and the second was a sound similar to static. Across the board children showed greater brain reaction to sounds with meaning and intention, in this case the sound of the violin. By the end of the study all of the children showed an increased response to the sound due to a greater level of brain maturity. The children who received the music lessons however showed a greater response than those who didn’t.

It is this change, as well as better memory indicated by testing shows the significant effect music lessons play on a child’s developing brain. Extending and applying this finding the research scientists found that music helped to wire the brain for cognitive and memory functions to a greater extent.

Questions Raised
One of the main questions raised following the study was its application to
large groups of children. Only twelve children were tested, a relatively small group for research of this kind. Although the research is believed to be true across all children, this cannot be confirmed to a greater extent until a broader study is completed. Another question which must be asked is whether gender plays any role in childhood brain development as it relates to music. In this study males were the main test subjects. A study into varying development as it relates to gender should also be completed to ensure the validity of results. Overall, more research will have to be completed to confirm the results found in this study.

The team is planning further research into the topic, this time focusing on the effect of music lessons on adult minds. For more information about this study, check out the October issue of Brain. Music lessons linked to increased brain development. Some improvements included memory, literacy, and math skills. An improvement in overall IQ was also indicated. The study focused on only 12 children, 9 boys and 3 girls.

By: Kris Karkoski from Associated Content

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