Early musical training benefits children even before they can walk and talk, according to new research.
Researchers at McMaster University of Canada found that one-year-old babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better, and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.
“Our results suggest that the infant brain might be particularly plastic with regard to musical exposure,” said Laurel Trainor, Ph.D., director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind.
Trainor and David Gerry, a music educator and graduate student, received a grant from the Grammy Foundation in 2008 to study the effects of musical training in infancy. In the recent study, babies and their parents spent six months participating in one of two types of weekly music classes.
One class involved interactive music-making and learning lullabies, nursery rhymes and songs with actions. Parents and infants worked together to learn to play percussion instruments and sing specific songs.
In the other class, infants and parents played at various toy stations while recordings from the Baby Einstein series played in the background.
“Babies who participated in the interactive music classes with their parents showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music,” said Trainor.
“Specifically, they preferred to listen to a version of a piano piece that stayed in key, versus a version that included out-of-key notes. Infants who participated in the passive listening classes did not show the same preferences. Even their brains responded to music differently. Infants from the interactive music classes showed larger and/or earlier brain responses to musical tones.”
The non-musical differences between the two groups of babies were even more surprising, according to the researchers.
Babies from the interactive classes showed better early communication skills, like pointing at objects that are out of reach or waving goodbye. These babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and showed less distress when things were unfamiliar or didn’t go their way.
The findings were published recently in the scientific journals Developmental Science and Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Source: McMaster University