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article imageMusic training shapes the brains of children

By Tim Sandle     Sep 30, 2014 in Science
Los Angeles - Musical training helps to shape the developing brain of children. Studies showed that after two years in a music enrichment program children displayed enhanced sophisticated brain responses to spoken syllables.
The study was carried out with children in Los Angeles. For the study, 44 children were enrolled into the Harmony Project (an organization which takes music training to children in low-income communities). The children were placed into random groups and examined after one year and two years.
The children who commenced music lessons were eight years old. The study found that following two years of lessons the children’s brains showed distinct responses to the rapidly spoken sounds “ba” and “ga.” These are so-termed “stop consonants”, a neural mechanism linked to reading and language skills. The same response was not seen in the children who had received lessons for only one year.
The speed of the response to the sounds was measured my fitting electrodes onto the scalps of the children. The analysis revealed millisecond-scale differences in brain activity in response to the syllables.
The findings suggest that the more musically-trained brains are better at distinguishing between the sounds. By extending this, the researchers argue that neural distinction can be linked to real-life skills such as reading. The researchers plan to undertake more studies to determine the full effect of music and the developing brain.
The study is important in relation to the aims of the Harmony project, particularly whether music can offset the ever-widening academic gap between rich and poor. The results of the research suggest that music can.
The findings have been reported to the Journal of Neuroscience. The paper is titled “Music Enrichment Programs Improve the Neural Encoding of Speech in At-Risk Children.”
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