How Music Helps Children's Brains

060920093024-1.jpgResearchers at Northwestern University studied music training's affect on neuroplasticity, defined as the brain's ability to change structurally and functionally as a result of training and experience. "A musician's brain selectively enhances information-bearing elements in sound," and "the nervous system makes associations between complex sounds and what they mean" said Nina Craus Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory ( 07/21/2010). This research suggests that those with musical training have better resources to pick out relevant and important information from speech and sound.

In 2006 researchers in Canada conducted a study with children 4-6 years old. Half of the children took private Suzuki music lessons, and the other half had no musical training outside school. The study showed that the children taking music lessons improved in general memory capacity and these effects were clear after only a year of music lessons. "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" said Dr Laurel Trainor, Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour at McMaster University and Director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind (ScienceDaily 9/20/2006).

Musicians that have practiced picking out melodies in a layer of different harmonies are better "primed" to interpret speech in a noisy background. This particulary benefits children with learning disorders who can be particularly susceptible to the distraction of background noise. Musical training seems to strengthen the neural process that assists in detecting speech through noise (ScienceDaily 07/20/2010).

In plain English this means that the skills your brain develops when learning music can be applyed to many other fields of learning. Leaning music gives your brain "practice" at hearing and memorizing important information, as well as improving attention and focus. "The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness" ( 07/21/2010).