Researchers have found the first evidence that young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year compared to children who do not receive musical training.
The findings, published today (20 September 2006) in the online edition of the journal Brain , show that not only do the brains of musically-trained children respond to music in a different way to those of the untrained children, but also that the training improves their memory as well. After one year the musically trained children performed better in a memory test that is correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics and IQ.
The Canadian-based researchers reached these conclusions after measuring changes in brain responses to sounds in children aged between four and six. Over the period of a year they took four measurements in two groups of children those taking Suzuki music lessons and those taking no musical training outside school and found developmental changes over periods as short as four months. While previous studies have shown that older children given music lessons had greater improvements in IQ scores than children given drama lessons, this is the first study to identify these effects in brain-based measurements in young children.
Dr Laurel Trainor, Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour at McMaster University and Director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, said: "This is the first study to show that brain responses in young, musically trained and untrained children change differently over the course of a year. These changes are likely to be related to the cognitive benefit that is seen with musical training." Prof Trainor led the study with Dr Takako Fujioka, a scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute.