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Musical Lessons in Childhood – Lifelong Benefit

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Did you know that taking music lessons while you’re young can actually strengthen your auditory skills to a great extent? That’s right, various studies have shown that learning to play a musical instrument when we are children may lead to various changes in our brain and its effects can be seen throughout our life.

The Research

A recent research done by Northwestern University on college students observed their auditory brain stem responses, which means, recording their brain waves while they react to different sounds. The study showed that students who took musical lessons while they were children had more energetic responses and could identify more complex sounds in terms of pitch and important elements, even if they stopped taking music lessons years ago.

The correlation between auditory skill enhancement and musical lessons is quite puzzling and examples like reading can have unexpected benefits if a student took music lessons during his childhood. Although, this relation may not be like the ‘Mozart effect’, the improvement in performance in terms of discipline and engagement while taking a test is truly amazing. The fact still remains that taking musical training actually enhances the brain’s capability to differentiate different components of sounds like the timbre, pitch and timing.

According to Prof. Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University – “To learn to read, you need to have good working memory, the ability to disambiguate speech sounds, make sound-to-meaning connections,”

The skill to recognize the most subtle sound and differentiate it even in the most noisy or complex background is vital for children as well as adults, to learn written language and understand speech, even if an adult is suffering from hearing loss.

According to Dr. Claude Alain, what we refer to as the ‘cocktail party problem’, it has been seen that musically trained elderly people perform better in recognizing speech against noise, as this involves more of the peripheral  hearing than the brain.

According to a study of those who do keep playing, researchers studied that as musicians get older each day, they go through the same decline  in nerve function of the ear (peripheral hearing decline), just like non-musicians, but musicians have the capability of understanding speech against noisy background. This is known as the central auditory processing skill.

While  studies by University of California and the assistant director of the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto Dr. Jane Gitschier are studying this perfect capability to recognize any  tone, as part of genetics or the benefit of childhood training. The fact still remains – anyone who qualifies to have extreme skill in identifying different pitch letters are musically trained in their childhood.

What Does This Research Suggest

Researchers in the area of musical education and flexibility of the mind on brain waves are usually musicians who see the fascination in knowing what the brain is capable of and the effects it brings in combination of practice, application, stimulation and auditory exercise from musical education. However, there is no single concrete way to prove these findings.

An author, doctoral candidate and a trained pianist, Alexandra Parbery-Clark took after her desire to study the brain from her inspiration from teaching students of 4 years at a musical French school. She observed that when these kids learned to attend, they work on their  memory, attention skill and auditory skills which may be termed as scholastic learning, but looking at the records of the mind’s capability to detect sounds, it can be clearly seen that musically qualified intelligence are stronger in their responses.

Do Not Push Too Hard

To conclude in the words of Ms. Parbery-Clark – children should have the freedom of enjoying by learning their music lessons which should not be misunderstood as a strategy to develop cognitive skills. Music is all about enjoying and socializing.

Serge is a blogger and writes for Edictive, a blog based on technology and video production. In his free time he writes reviews for GiftIdeas blog it is like shopping therapy for things like headphones for music.

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