Studies suggest lasting effects of music education

Posted on: September 12, 2012

Monday (9/10) on the New York Times blog “Well,” Perri Klass, M.D., writes, “When children learn to play a musical instrument, they strengthen a range of auditory skills. Recent studies suggest that these benefits extend all through life, at least for those who continue to be engaged with music. But a study published last month is the first to show that music lessons in childhood may lead to changes in the brain that persist years after the lessons stop. Researchers at Northwestern University recorded the auditory brainstem responses of college students—that is to say, their electrical brain waves—in response to complex sounds. The group of students who reported musical training in childhood had more robust responses—their brains were better able to pick out essential elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds when they were tested. … We aren’t talking here about the ‘Mozart effect,’ the claim that listening to classical music can improve people’s performance on tests. Instead, these are studies of the effects of active engagement and discipline. … ‘To learn to read, you need to have good working memory, the ability to disambiguate speech sounds, make sound-to-meaning connections,’ said Professor Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. ‘Each one of these things really seems to be strengthened with active engagement in playing a musical instrument.’ ”

Posted September 12, 2012