The accepted theory now is that taking music lessons as a child enhances brain function and structure, but that there’s nothing uniquely beneficial about the music of Mozart. Early music lessons enhance brain plasticity — the brain’s capacity to change and grow. (19) Children with musical training do better in subjects like language, reading, and math and have better fine motor skills than their non-musical classmates. (17, 18) Kids who sing together in a choir report higher satisfaction in all their classes, not just music. (24)
And if kids don’t stick with their music lessons forever, that’s OK. There’s evidence that a little bit of music training goes a long way. Just a half-hour music lesson increases blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain. (20) As little as four years of music lessons were found to improve certain brain functions, even when tested 40 years later! (21) When exposure to music training begins before age seven, the brain enhancement that takes place can last a lifetime. (22, 23)
Most studies on music and the brain have been done on older kids, but it looks like it’s never too young to start. In another study, music lessons of sorts — playing drums and singing nursery rhymes — were given to babies before they could walk or talk. (25) Babies who had music lessons communicated better, smiled more, and showed earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.
Just as it’s never too early to start, it’s also never too late to benefit from music. Playing music and dancing protects seniors against memory loss and cognitive decline when compared to other brain exercises such as playing cards, doing the crossword puzzle, or walking for exercise. (26) It will be interesting to see how popular online brain training programs like Lumosity fare against music in future studies.
(Deane Alban wakeupworld.com)
Pictured below: Danielle Joynt and Pippa Chapman run Cantaris Children's Choir, pictured here.