As parents seek to provide their children with the best opportunities for development, neuroscience research has been proving that music education fast-tracks speech and reading skills, trains children to focus their attention for sustained periods, and helps them to develop emotional intelligence, among many other lifelong benefits.
The findings from a number of studies over the last decade were compiled by The Royal Conservatory of Music in an article entitled “The Benefits of Music Education: An Overview of Current Neuroscience Research.” The document highlights compelling research insights into the long-term value children gain through music training in reaching their full potential.
“Music, as we know, is one of the most powerful means available to further human development and build great communities and societies. Neuroscience research also now shows us that music education is a very powerful tool for attaining a child’s full intellectual, social and creative potential,” said Dr. Peter Simon, President and CEO, The Royal Conservatory of Music.
Among the benefits of music education: it increases IQ and working memory, promotes better information processing and motor coordination, and helps to create stronger neural connections in the brain which contribute to improved structure and function through a process called neuroplasticity. Music training also brings children long-term health benefits, as it has been shown to delay the onset of dementia, and can help to compensate for hearing loss later in life: studies show that seniors with musical training are able to pick out sounds in noisy environments even though they’ve suffered hearing loss.
“When we practice music, we’re training our brains in skills relevant not only to music, but also to many other important life activities. For children, in particular, music study contributes to their cognitive development and can provide lifelong benefits in health and resilience,” said Dr. Sean Hutchins, Director of Research at The Royal Conservatory.
The use of technologies such as functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) have given neuroscience researchers a better understanding of exactly what happens inside the brain when it processes music, and how this activity contributes to better learning and functioning. The research is showing that learning to play an instrument or sing leads to changes in the brain that promote cognitive growth.
More than 200 neuroscientists around the world are involved in researching the effects of music study on brain function and structure. Many of the leaders in the field are based in Canada, with clusters of research in Montreal, Hamilton and Toronto. The Royal Conservatory’s Dr. Hutchins is considered to be a world expert in the study of vocal perception and production. The Conservatory’s research article can be found at https://www.rcmusic.ca/resources.