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Studies show that learning to play a musical instrument helps promote brain development in children. Early music training has been found to improve memory and other mental skills, as well as promote psychological health by reducing stress and anxiety.

Music geniuses like Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart started developing their crafts as young children. Most children will not become as famous or passionate with music as Mozart or Beethoven, but many will benefit from learning and training with this art in various ways. Aside from being able to express themselves, entertain their families and friends, or have fun just tinkering with an instrument of their choice, children may develop their mental abilities and maximize their brains’ potentials by engaging in music.

Research on the impact of music on child brain development is not new. The effect of music on brain size has been studied since the 19th century, and it has led some people like Georgia Sen. Zell Miller to devise "Beethoven for Babies," a classical CD that was given to every newborn baby in Georgia to bring home from the hospital. Recent technology, particularly imaging techniques like the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) has also made it possible for investigators to visualize the impact of music on brain size and brain activity ("the Mozart effect") in living subjects. Although researchers are not yet sure whether listening to classical music at an early age affects brain development, studies suggest that music training may have an effect. On the other hand, some experts also think that a child’s ability to learn to play an instrument may occur only in those whose brains were already overdeveloped in certain areas.

Benefits Of Music Training

Previous studies have shown that musical training is associated with IQ improvement in school-aged children. Experts believe that music promotes cognitive (mental) development in children and that it should be part of pre-school and elementary education. It has been shown that children taking music lessons display improvements in memory skills that correlate with non-musical skills such as mathematics, literacy, visual and spatial processing, and verbal memory, compared to children who are not taking lessons.  

Studies show that there are many ways musical training can improve the connectivity and function of different brain regions. It increases one’s brain volume and supports communication between various brain areas. Playing a musical instrument at an early age (particularly before age 7) affects how the brain interprets and assimilates a wide array of sensory information. Musical training enhances their ability to integrate information from different senses - hearing, sight, and touch. It increases connectivity between areas in the brain (brain circuits), thus creating alternative access in broken or dysfunctional systems within the brain.

Canadian neuroscientists who examined the brains of adults ages 19-21 with at least one year of musical training found that certain brain regions associated with self-awareness and hearing were larger in those who began music training before they were seven years old. Specifically, these brain regions had more gray matter and a thicker cortex, which forms the outer layer of the brain.

Another study done by Swedish researchers found that musical training reshapes brain circuits through neuroplasticity. MRI analysis of the brain function of pianists while playing on a 12-key piano keyboard showed that musical training helped improve their ability to improvise, suggesting improved brain connectivity and less reliance on memory. 

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Science Daily. Could playing Tchaikovsky's 'Nutcracker' and other music improve kids' brains?
  • Science Daily. First Evidence That Musical Training Affects Brain Development In Young Children.
  • EduGuide. Music Education and Childhood Brain Development.
  • Psychology Today. Musical Training Optimizes Brain Function. courtesy of Knight Foundation via Flickr:
  • Photo courtesy of Woodleywonderworks via Flickr:

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