Music Lessons Help Young Child Memories

By Jennifer Kwan Wed Sep 20, 8:17 AM ET

TORONTO (Reuters) – Parents who spend time and money to teach their children music, take heart — a new Canadian study shows young children who take music lessons have better memories than their non-musical peers. The study, to be published in the online edition of the journal Brain on Wednesday, showed that after one year of musical training, children performed better in a memory test than those who did not take music classes.

“(The research) tells us that if you take music lessons your brain is getting wired up differently than if you don’t take music lessons,” Laurel Trainor, Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, told Reuters. “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,” said Trainor who led the study.

Over a year they took four measurements in two groups of children aged between four and six — those taking music lessons and those taking no musical training outside school — and found developmental changes over periods as short as four months. The children completed a music test in which they were asked to discriminate between harmonies, rhythms and melodies, and a memory test in which they had to listen to a series of numbers, remember them and repeat them back. Trainor said while previous studies have shown that older children given music lessons had greater improvements in IQ scores than children given drama lessons, this is the first study to identify these effects in brain-based measurements in young children. She said it was not that surprising that children studying music improved in musical listening skills more than children not studying music.

“On the other hand, it is very interesting that the children taking music lessons improved more over the year on general memory skills that are correlated with non-musical abilities such as literacy, verbal memory, visual-spatial processing, mathematics and IQ,” she said.

Last spring, Kindermusik® of Cambridge/KW was approached by Dr. Trainor looking for Kindermusik families to participate in another study being conducted at McMaster University. Presently, Trainor and her team are researching the potential benefits of musical experiences early in life. Specifically, how connections develop between the auditory and vestibular systems, and the impact that programs such as Kindermusik have on this development.

Babies, 6 to 8 months of age, are needed for this research. Kindermusik experience is not a requirement. If you are interested in participating with your baby in this study, please contact Professor Laurel Trainor, at 905-525-9140, ext.23007 or her assistant, Ashley Faux, at ext. 27114.

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