WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 29, 2012 16:52 PM
Growing up, some children learn how to play the recorder in school. Others take lessons on weeknights or weekends so they know how to strum a guitar, tickle the ivories of a piano or keep a beat on a drum set. Then, there are those whose musical experience is limited to listening to their favorite songs on the radio.
Based on the results of past studies, it is the children who receive musical training early in life that appear to benefit the most, as there is a chance their IQs will increase.
Music training linked to better brain function
While it may take several years’ worth of music lessons for individuals to master an instrument, it only takes a few for their brains to reap the rewards of music training, according to a new Northwestern University study. After reviewing data from 45 adults, researchers found that those who received one to five years of musical training during childhood also possessed better listening skills thanks to their enhanced brains.
According to the researchers, the study, which appears in the "Journal of Neuroscience," addresses something many parents wonder about - what impact a limited number of music lessons will have on their children.
"The study suggests that short-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning," said Nina Kraus, a Northwestern professor.
Based on their findings, the researchers believe that just a few years of music training may be enough to shape the way in which individuals perceive the sounds all around them, even those that are difficult to hear.
"The way you hear sound today is dictated by the experiences with sound you’ve had up until today," Kraus said.
With the results of this study in mind, parents may want to consider the benefits of signing their children up for music lessons, even if it is just for a short period of time.
The longer the training, the greater the IQ
Of course, Northwestern is not the only institution to look into the link between musical instruction and changes in cognitive function. Several years ago, researchers from the University of Toronto Mississauga conducted a study into whether or not more music lessons were connected to better brains.
The researchers behind the study, which was published in the "Journal of Educational Psychology," learned that there was indeed a link between the amount of time individuals spend learning a musical instrument and how their brains develop.
According to E. Glenn Schellenberg, the study’s lead researcher, there is a "dope-response association." Essentially, this means that the longer children take music lessons, the higher their IQ may be. At the same time, a link was discovered between learning an instrument and academic performance.
After looking at data from children between the ages of 6 and 11, as well as college freshmen, Schellenberg’s team found that for the younger study subjects, music lessons were associated with better school grades and higher achievement test scores in the areas of reading, spelling and mathematics.
"With music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved - such as memorizing, expressing emotion, learning about musical interval and chords - the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating the [IQ] effect," said Schellenberg.
Consider an IQ test
While school grades can certainly point to changes in the brain, parents who are truly curious to see how music lessons have affected their children may want to have them take IQ tests for kids. These types of assessments are especially important for mothers and fathers who believe their children may be gifted musicians, as early identification can be crucial to talented youths’ long-term success.