Early music training could have long-term benefits
Yo-Yo Ma, Oscar Peterson and many other highly-skilled musicians began their music training before the age of 7. A recent study suggests early music training may have a greater effect on brain structure than having the same training later in life.
The study tested 36 highly trained musicians who were divided into two groups – those who began their training before age 7 and those who trained after, with both groups having the same years of training and experience. The study compared white matter organization using imaging and found that early-trained musicians had greater white matter connectivity. This white matter can produce long-lasting changes in behavior and the brain.
“For many years, the role of music in aiding brain development has been looked at in young children,” says Dr. Andrew Gordon, neurologist with Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “This research suggests that early exposure to music enhances auditory and visual sensorimotor skills.”
Dr. Gordon explains that this exciting study should prompt people to expand their concept of wellness and consider adding music training in the early stages, as well as, later in life to potentially prevent and mitigate neurological diseases. Currently, music therapy is being investigated to help treat Alzheimer’s patients and some studies have suggested music can help individuals with chronic pain.
To help children foster a love of music early on, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers these suggestions:
- Put a small stereo or boombox and a rotating collection of CDs in your child’s room.
- A musical alarm clock or clock radio can help your child wake up musically. Many stereos have timers that let kids drift off to music, as well. And certain songs can serve as cues for your child (for instance, one song you always play or sing in the morning when it’s time to get ready for school).
- Sample CDs from your local library. You can try different artists and styles without spending money.
- Introduce kids to songs from your own childhood or share music you love.
- Sing in the car.
- Make or buy musical instruments and have them available in your child’s play area.
- Cook to music, clean to music, and take time sometimes just to sit and listen as an activity.
- Try music-making computer software programs that let kids lay down their own tracks, just like a professional.
- Form your own family band with real or improvised instruments (spoons, makeshift drums, etc.). This is a good group activity for kids to try with friends.
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