Music to Your Ears (and Brain)
By: Beth McHugh 2006
Would you be interested in increasing your child’s literacy skills, memory function, mathematical ability, and general intelligence level? Children who take music lessons and who practice regularly have been shown to demonstrate advanced brain development as compared to those who did not. This phenomenon is apparent even in children with poor to average musical ability.
Recent studies have shown that learning a musical instrument will significantly improve brain development in young children, so much so that music should be prioritized to be a fundamental core subject of study for children of all ages.
Researchers at the Rotman Research Institute at the University of Toronto in Canada have pioneered studies into the effects of both learning to read music and play an instrument on higher brain processes. Focusing their study on students learning the violin via the Suzuki method, it was found that after a period of twelve months, students who learned music performed better in memory tests. These tests were designed to measure ability in the areas of mathematics, word skills, memory recall, general IQ, and attention skills.
It has long been suspected that learning an instrument improves general school performance, but with the introduction of brain imaging, scientists are now able to actually see differences in brain functioning in these children both before and after lessons were conducted.
The findings have been published in the journal Brain by the McMaster’s University Institute for Music and the Mind in Hamilton, Ontario. The chief spokesperson for the research team Dr. Takako Fujioka stated that: “It is clear that music is good for children’s cognitive development and that music should be a part of the pre-school and primary school curriculum.”
The ramification of studies such as these is enormous. Learning an instrument of choice, one that your child derives pleasure from, will not only provide your child with hours of fun, but be simultaneously stimulating the development of connections within the growing brain at a crucial time in their lives.
Music provides stimulation to both left and right hemispheres of the brain, thus helping the child to access and benefit from increased communication between hemispheres. Reading music relies on the left hemisphere but interpreting and putting expression into their playing is a function of the right hemispheres. In addition, learning any musical instrument helps with the development of fine motor skills. This is particularly important in young boys who typically develop these skills at a later age than females.
With the ability to increase attention skills, learning an appropriate musical instrument can also be of value to children with decreased attention skills. Finding the right instrument for your child is also crucial to the success of any program. If your child does not already display a leaning towards a particular instrument, a consultation with your local conservatorium of music will be able to assist you in finding the best instrument for your child’s temperament and ability.