Music lessons improve kids' brain development, memory: study

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 | 10:43 AM ET

The Canadian Press


Music lessons can help children as young as four show advanced brain development and improve their memory, even when it sounds like a budding musician is banging out little more than noise, a new Canadian study suggests.

Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton used magnetoencephalography(MEG) brain-scanning technology to compare the developmental changes in 12 children aged four to six over the course of a year.

The study, to be published in the October edition of Oxford University's neurology journal Brain, found that those who took music lessons showed more changes in brain responses.

Even when parents hear only what sounds like random notes or nonsense, it's likely their children are developing their brains in ways that could enhance their overall thinking, said professor Laurel Trainor, who led the study with Takako Fujioka, a scientist at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto.

"There are probably really fundamental things going on in the brain as those kids are learning over that first year, so even though they appear on the surface to maybe only play a few pieces, very simple pieces, it's probably setting up networks in their brain," Trainor said.

Music training could lead to improvements in literacy, verbal memory, visiospatial processing, mathematics and IQ, she added.