Music Education & Brain Growth in Childhood

By John Hart

The study of how music affects the human brain is fascinating! Recent studies show that musical training does more than simply increase ones musical ability—it provides tremendous benefits to children’s emotional and behavior maturation, aides in language development, increases their ability to solve multi-step problems, increases IQ, and in some cases helps a children do better on standardized tests!

A study by the University of Vermont College of Medicine found that even those who never made it past nursery rhyme songs received some major developmental benefits just from playing. Providing children with high-quality music education as early as possible is one of the most effective ways to ensure their success in life.  "What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument, it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control."  (Music.Mic)

It makes sense to involve our children in musical training when they are young, even if they choose not to continue studying music in their adult years.  "Music training in childhood fundamentally alters the nervous system such that neural changes persist in adulthood after auditory training has ceased. "  (Music Advocacy Groundswell)  “Studies have shown that assiduous instrument training from an early age can help the brain to process sounds better, making it easier to stay focused when absorbing other subjects, from literature to tensor calculus."  Scientific American (2010)

Studying music actually stimulates the language center of the left brain, which aides in language development.  Other research shows that music studies may even help increase IQ.  Studies from the University of Toronto in 2004 show that children who studied music averaged 3 IQ points higher in a one year period than the control group of those who did not.  It is believed that the reason for this is that musicians tend to use more of their brain while involved with music.  The brain images of musicians show changes in the brain networks, especially those involving spatial-temporal skills—the same skills used to solve multi-step problems, such as those encounter in architecture, engineering, math, art, and computers.  In 2007, Christopher Johnson, Professor of Music Education and Music Therapy completed a study which included that students who studied music scored 22% higher on standardized tests in English, and 20% higher on standardized math tests.