Does learning a musical instrument help brain development?
I know plenty of very bright musicians but does learning to play a musical instrument at an early age actually help with brain development?
Or is it simply that parents who can afford to give their children music lessons are also going to be exposing them to other educational activities which will contribute towards their education?
I doubt we’ll ever truly know the answer (and there probably isn’t a definitive one). However, I came across an article in Psychology Today which discusses a study from Boston Children’s Hospital conducted by neuroscientists using MRI brain imaging. It claims that there’s a possible link between learning music and improved “executive function” which is an umbrella term for working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, problem solving, planning and execution. In addition, it claims the cut-backs we are making in musical education are actually short sighted from an academic perspective.
The piece is here for you to read in detail and it makes three main points about musical training. These are:
1. Musicians have an enhanced ability to integrate sensory information from hearing, touch, and sight.
2. Beginning training before the age of seven has been shown to have the greatest impact. The age at which musical training starts impacts brain anatomy as an adult.
3. Brain circuits involved in musical improvisation are shaped by systematic training, leading to less reliance on working memory and more extensive connectivity within the brain.
My son just started a 20 minute a week violin lesson provided very reasonably at his school by The Camden Music Service. From a personal perspective, it has been really good for both of us to spend some time on our own together whilst he practises. He’s really motivated if I’m in there with him and I’ve really enjoyed this too.
So far, the lesson and practice time have been really good for:
- his concentration (we both really have to focus)
- his self-esteem (as he feels really proud when he’s accomplished something like learning a new tune. I’m really pleased for him, too).
- providing some relaxation (well... sometimes)
- the experience of a totally different discipline which takes him away from all other aspects of life
- his fine motor skills.
So, are you the mum of a virtuoso or does your child just love playing for fun? Have you found that learning an instrument has helped your child with their academic side?
It would be great to hear from you.