Music Training Speeds Up Brain Development In Children

How does music training in early childhood help the developing brain? woodleywonderworks, CC BY
Kristy Hamilton 10 Aug 2016, 21:44

The Conversation

Observing a pianist at a recital – converting musical notations into precisely timed finger movements on a piano – can be a powerful emotional experience.

As a researcher of neuroscience and a pianist myself, I understand that the mastering of this skill not only takes practice, but also requires complex coordination of many different brain regions.

Brain regions – that are responsible for our hearing, sight and movement abilities – engage in an amazing symphony to produce music. It takes coordinating both hands and communicating emotionally with other players and listeners to produce the magical effect. The combination of such demands is likely to influence brain structures and their functions.

In our lab, we want to understand whether music training during childhood improves brain functions for processing sound more generally. These functions are important for the development of language and reading skills.

Music training and brain

Over the past two decades, several investigators have reported differences in the brain and behavior of musicians compared to nonmusicians.

Music training has been found to be related to better language and mathematical skills, higher IQ and overall greater academic achievement. Also, differences between musicians and nonmusicians have been found in areas of the brain related to hearing and movement, among others.

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Music training helps develop many other skills. woodleywonderworks, CC BY

However, the interpretation of the findings remains unclear. For example, the differences reported between adult musicians and nonmusicians might be due to long-term intensive training or might result primarily from inherent biological factors, such as genetic makeup.

Or, as with many aspects of the nature-versus-nurture debate, the differences may well result from contributions of both environmental and biological factors.

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