Monday, December 1, 2008

Music Training Boosts the Brain

Music Training Boosts the Brain
BBC – News Report

Report By: Shauna Garelick


This study compared two groups of students aged four to six years old with both musical and non-musical training outside of school over the course of a year. The researchers measured change in IQ in addition to memory tests and brain tests in response to sound with results reflected in an MEG test. 12 children were studied. 6 students were enrolled in music lessons outside of school while the rest were not. Specifically, the lessons were from the Suzuki method. Results indicated that all of the children responded with increased brain activity when reacting to meaningful noise verses white noise. Further results showed an improvement among all of the students at the end of the year leading to the conclusion that there is improvement with maturity. In other aspects of the study, the Suzuki children out-performed the rest of the group on sound discrimination exercises and memory tests. The study concluded that music has a significant impact on cognitive skills for preschool aged students.


While this area of research is clearly in its primitive stages, this particular study does address some general aspects of cognitive abilities and its relationship to formal music study. It is interesting to note the common improvements among both groups of students. However, it is unclear as to how these students were chosen for the study. Were the students who were involved in the Suzuki method beginning students that year or had they already had some training? While they were all quite young, it is not uncommon for students to begin this method as young as 4 years old. Furthermore, the report states that the other students are not involved in music study outside of school. Were all 12 children taken from the same class and therefore exposed to the same music instruction in school? Furthermore, what instruments were the children studying Suzuki playing? In the study, a violin tone was used as meaningful noise. If the students were learning violin, they might be extra-sensitive to this sound. Finally, the fact that the sound discrimination improved among students learning Suzuki is not exactly shocking. If a person is engaged in formal learning of anything, it is more than likely that they will have significantly more improvement over someone who does not. For example, a person learning to hit a baseball will improve their hand-eye coordination because that is the skill that is required to achieve success. The phrase ‘practice makes perfect’ is not just a fluke.


I realize that this is just the beginning of research being done on children of this age. I am glad that this is the case because it seems that advocating for music education because it is fun, enjoyable and engaging for kids. If we could get some sound scientific research that proves that children need this for a well-rounded education, perhaps we as educators can have more time to actually educate and leave the advocating for the scientists. Just a thought….

By the way… they made a mistake and assumed that Dr. Takako Fujioka is a man. I believe that that is the woman who talked to us when we went to Baycrest, but correct me if I’m wrong.

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