After comparing children who had music lessons with those who didn't, scientists from McMaster University, Canada, found that those who took music lessons had different patterns of brain development. The children with music lessons had better memories as well as higher literacy and math levels. All the kids in the study were aged 4-6 years.

You will be able to read about this study in the October issue of Brain.

Professor Laurel Trainor, team leader, 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."

There were two groups of six children. One group had no music lessons (four boys, two girls), while the other had classes at the Suzuki music school (five boys, one girl). The Suzuki method gets the kids to listen to music, then imitate it - before ever learning how to read music.

While all the children listened to two sounds, a violin tone, and a white noise burst - the scientists used magnetoencephalography to measure their brain activity. All the kids responded more to the violin tone than the white noise burst. This indicates that the children's brains are being used more when the sound is meaningful. During the year-long study the researchers also noticed that all the children's brains gradually responded more rapidly to sounds - indicating brain maturity.

They did find, however, that the children who received music lessons experienced greater change during the course of the year.

The team said that this greater change, as well as their noticeably better memory, indicate that the music lessons were having a significant impact on those children's brain development.

Prof. Trainor said "It suggests that musical training is having an effect on how the brain gets wired for general cognitive functioning related to memory and attention."

Funding for this study came from the International Foundation for Music Research, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and The Sound Technology Promotion Foundation.

The team now plan to carry out a similar one-year study on adults.

Music and the mind
See the article online in the McMaster University web site

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today