Beyond the obvious benefits of learning music, a new study gives a few more reasons to take music lessons in childhood.
The study, published in the Aug. 22 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, states that adults who took music lessons as children have a heightened ability to process sounds and are better at listening.
Northwestern University researchers looked at 45 adults who had music training in childhood and compared them to those with no musical training during childhood. Those with even a few years of musical training in childhood had enhanced brain responses to complex sounds.
The participants were divided into three groups: those with no musical training, those with one to five years of lessons, and those with six to 11 years. Most in the study had begun music lessons at about age nine.
The study found that those who had music lessons were better at hearing fundamental frequency. This is the lowest frequency in sound and is crucial for speech and music perception. It enables recognition of sounds in complex and noisy hearing settings.
In a university news release, Nina Kraus, a professor of neurobiology, physiology and communication sciences, stated “Musical training as children makes better listeners later in life,” She continued, saying, “Based on what we already know about the ways that music helps shape the brain, the study suggests that short-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning.
Many children take music lessons for a few years, but few continue with formal music instruction beyond middle or high school. We help address a question on every parent’s mind: ‘Will my child benefit if he or she plays music for a short while but then quits training?”
Note: While the research showed an association between musical training and better listening skills, it does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
(SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, Aug. 21, 2012)
More Information: The American Music Therapy Association: other benefits of music.