Babies' brains benefit from music lessons, even before they can walk
12 , May , ScienceDaily
After completing the first study of its kind, researchers at McMaster
University have discovered that very early musical training benefits
children even before they can walk or talk.They 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.
The findings were published recently in the scientific journals
Developmental Science and Annals of the New York Academy of
Sciences."Many past studies of musical training have focused on older
children," says Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster Institute for
Music and the Mind. "Our results suggest that the infant brain might be
particularly plastic with regard to musical exposure." Trainor, together
with David Gerry, a music educator and graduate student, received an
award from the Grammy Foundation in 2008 to study the effects of musical
training in infancy. In the recent study, groups of babies and their
parents spent six months participating in one of two types of weekly
One music class involved interactive music-making and learning a
small set of lullabies, nursery rhymes and songs with actions. Parents
and infants worked together to learn to play percussion instruments,
take turns and sing specific songs.
In the other music class, infants and parents played at various toy
stations while recordings from the popular "Baby Einstein" series played
in the background.Before the classes began, all the babies had shown
similar communication and social development and none had previously
participated in other baby music classes."
Babies who participated in the interactive music classes with their
parents showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music,"
says 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, say researchers.Babies from the interactive
classes showed better early communication skills, like pointing at
objects that are out of reach, or waving goodbye.
Socially, these babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and
showed less distress when things were unfamiliar or didn't go their
way.While both class types included listening to music and all the
infants heard a similar amount of music at home, a big difference
between the classes was the interactive exposure to music.
"There are many ways that parents can connect with their babies,"
says study coordinator Andrea Unrau. "The great thing about music is,
everyone loves it and everyone can learn simple interactive musical