Monday, February 04, 2013

A Biological Reason for Early Music Lessons?

I wrote a post a while ago in response to a discussion on when to start a child in music lessons on the Well Trained Mind Boards. Many people on the boards were telling the original poster that it was good to wait until a child is older because they will be more mature and learn faster (though this has not been my experience at all). In that post I listed a number of reasons why I thought early music training was important as it pertained to my own child. I won't go back into all that because it is all right here.

Yesterday, this was posted in a Suzuki Chat yahoo group. It is from an article in New Science magazine and presents a biological reason for early music training.

"Good news for pushy parents. If you want your child to excel
musically, you now have better justification for starting their
lessons early. New evidence comes from brain scans of 36 highly
skilled musicians, split equally between those who started lessons
before and after the age of 7, but who had done a similar amount of
training and practice.

MRI scans revealed that the white matter in the corpus callosum - the
brain lesion that links the two hemispheres - had more extensive
wiring and connectivity in the early starters. The wiring of the
late starters was not that much different from that of non-musician
controls. This makes sense as the corpus callosum aids speed and
synchronisation in tasks involving both hands, such as playing
musical instruments (Journal of Neuroscience,DOI:

Christopher Steele of the Max Planch Institute for Human Cognitive
and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, says this is the most
compelling evidence yet that younger-trained musicians have an
advantage because their training coincided with a key period of brain
development. At age 7 or 8, the corpus callosum is more receptive
than ever to the alterations in connectivity necessary to meet the
demands of learning an instrument."

The first sentence of this article, "Good news for pushy parents," is really annoying. It is a generalization and makes me question the intelligence of the article writer. Supposing that all parents who begin their child in musical training before 7 years old are "pushy" is presumptuous and completely incorrect. I know a good number of people who started younger children, sometimes reluctantly, on musical instruments based on their child's desire to play.

Anyway, the interesting thing about this report on the study was that those who started musical training after 7 years old had MRIs not much different from that of non-musician controls. So, after 7-8 years old, musical training does not cause changes to the corpus callosum...the area of the brain involved in speed and synchronization in tasks involving both hands?  Sounds like a bit of scientific proof for another benefit to early musical training.


Jenny said...

Interesting. Thanks for sharing "pushy parent"! (just kidding) :)

ptmom said...

Welcome. I guess I may be the ultimate pushy parent. LOL