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"Children in the music group encountered a faster rate of maturity in their auditory system than the rest of the kids. The study shows that music education could be an effective tool to aid a child’s cognitive and neurological development [4]. Piano lessons, clarinet lessons, violin, flute, and guitar; it doesn’t matter. Let your child discover the magic of music at an early age."

A Child’s Brain Develops Faster With Exposure to Music Education

Posted on: April 14, 2019 at 9:17 am

Last updated: April 17, 2019 at 2:44 pm

In essence, the researchers are trying to tell the world that music is not just food for the soul, but also food for the brain.

Music is a beautiful thing. It has been used since the dawn of time as an ardent form of self-expression and an outlet for emotions. Music has a lot of purposes to humanity, ranging from entertainment to medical therapy.

The study was published in the Journal of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience in 2016 [1]. Before its release, several other scientific reviews had reported significant structural differences in the brains of musical and non-musical individuals [2]. This particular one began in 2012 as part of a five-year longitudinal study in music and lasted for two years. The researchers, who are neuroscientists at the Brain and Creativity Institute of the University of Southern California, discovered that exposure to music can help a child’s brain develop faster and be more attuned to auditory details.

Details of the study

Initially, 50 children from the same socio-economic background were recruited as participants. The kids were all between the ages of 6 and 7. As the study progressed, 13 children dropped off due to relocation and other issues, therefore they were not included in the final analysis.

The final report was cumulatively based on 37 children. The children were split into three groups for the purpose of comparison. 13 children (5 girls and 8 boys) formed the music group, and they participated in a free music training at the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA). They practiced several instruments for 6 -7 hours every week.

11 children (4 girls and 7 boys) formed the sports group. This group of kids did not engage in any musical training but were enrolled in a communitybased soccer program to begin their free sports training. They trained for 6 hours every week.

Finally, the third group of 13 children (2 girls and 11 boys) formed the no-training group. They received neither sports no musical training during the 2-year assessment period.

According to the report: “All three cohorts came from equally under-privileged minority communities and included primarily Latino and one Korean family, in downtown Los Angeles. All children were raised in bilingual households, but all attended English speaking schools and spoke fluent English as revealed by normal performance on the verbal components of the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI II). Exclusion criteria included any history of psychiatric or neurologic disease in the children.”

Before the study commenced, EEGs were carried out to know the stages of neurological developments the children were at. Subsequently, more tests were carried out to track neuron activity in their brains and monitor systemic developments.

Results of the study

In the last phase of the study, all 37 children underwent a tonal and rhythm discrimination task, during which they had to differentiate variably similar melodies. 24 melodies were played twice over in a random order while the children attempted to spot the differences and similarities in tone and rhythm.

Despite the fact that all the children showed significant recognition of the melodies when they were the same, children in the music group were more accurate at identifying the melodies when they differed.

It was discovered that the auditory systems of the music group kids were developing faster than those of the others.

“The auditory system is stimulated by music,” lead researcher Dr. Assal Habibi said. “This system is also engaged in general sound processing that is fundamental to language development, reading skills, and successful communication.”

Faster development of the auditory system would facilitate the development of language proficiency and reading skills. Exposure to music would allow children to identify sounds and recognize speech faster and more accurately.

Evoked potential tests were used to monitor their responses to the sensory stimulation of sound while piano tones, violin tones, and pure tones were played. Essentially these tests measure how long it takes for the brain to respond to stimulation [3]. When conducting these tests, an electrical potential known as P1, which would decrease as a child develops, was monitored using the EEG in all children.

“We observed a decrease in P1 amplitude and latency that was the largest in the music group compared to age-matched control groups after two years of training,” the scientists wrote. “In addition, focusing just on the (second) year data, the music group showed the smallest amplitude of P1 compared to both the control and sports group, in combination with the accelerated development of the N1 component.”

This means that the children in the music group encountered a faster rate of maturity in their auditory system than the rest of the kids. The study shows that music education could be an effective tool to aid a child’s cognitive and neurological development [4]. Piano lessons, clarinet lessons, violin, flute, and guitar; it doesn’t matter. Let your child discover the magic of music at an early age.


Neural correlates of accelerated auditory processing in children engaged in music training. Assal Habibi et al. Science Direct. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878929315301122#bib0090. October 2016.Brain structures differ between musicians and non-musicians. Gaser C. et al. PubMed. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14534258. September 4, 2013.Evoked potential test and results. Aaron Kandola. Medical News Today. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318804.php. August 7, 2017.A CHILD’S BRAIN DEVELOPS FASTER WITH EXPOSURE TO MUSIC EDUCATION. Anita Nee. Music Education Works. Retrieved from https://musiceducationworks.wordpress.com/2016/06/19/a-childs-brain-develops-faster-with-exposure-to-music/?fbclid=IwAR0NpljgIGy_q9zC8Jo4eST_4NR9KYgwv7XMOKOdsRBgLcziyamTrytK8TI. June 19, 2016.

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A very informative article on children and why music matters in their lives, written by Joanne Foster, EdD.

Music has the power to enrich lives. Children benefit from observing, listening to, and participating in musical activities. Find out why and how—and also discover what a modern day composer has to say!

Music: Why and How 

Whether it’s singing, moving to melodies, composing, playing an instrument, harmonizing, or creating or responding to rhythmical sounds, music can be very impactful. It can enhance aspects of cognitive development (including perception, memory, and aural and language skills), and stimulate interest in the arts, and in creative expression. Music is a form of communication that helps young children recognize and embrace their feelings. Songs for rest and relaxation can sooth kids when they’re stressed or over-stimulated, and upbeat melodies can make them feel happy, confident, and motivated. Music also brings children together for interludes of fun, and pleasurable social interaction. And, at a time when many schools are experiencing cuts in music programs, it is vitally important that learning in this domain not be neglected.

It makes good sense to encourage children to participate in the appreciation and creation of music. Options abound through resource centres, conservatories, community groups, online offerings, concert series, formal or informal lessons, and other gatherings and venues. Parents can and should take the initiative to find programs, resources, and opportunities for kids to engage independently and collaboratively in musical experiences, to sustain involvement over time, and to proactively explore this creative medium. 

With all this in mind, I met with Hanne Deneire, an energetic composer who seeks to instill a love of music in children by encouraging them to create their own compositions. Hanne lives and works in Antwerp. We met in Toronto, where we chatted at length about learning, creativity, and child development. What follows here is a distillation of our discussion. By virtue of five questions and answers, I offer a glimpse into what drives musicality for Hanne, and for the many children she inspires.

Interview with Hanne Deneire

1.) You describe yourself as a “visionary symphonist of music and people.” What exactly does this mean?

"I like to look toward the future with my imagination, and act on it. ‘Symphonist’ is a more poetic word than ‘composer.’ I do not only write music, I also write programs and models where music is the vehicle to connect, empower, stimulate, and motivate people."

2.) How do you help children appreciate music?

"In my work, children become composers. Three to seven year olds learn music by making their own piece. It starts from their imagination, stimulating them and motivating them to persist in finding what they want to tell in the language of music. It makes children grow personally, and that is what life is about."

3.) Why do you believe that music is so important for creative expression?

"Music is a universal language. Throughout the world, musicians, composers, and conductors understand each other. It really is magical. 

And, when we sing or create music, we use all the parts of the brain: left, right, front, and back. All these parts collaborate. That is very unique! Music is complex; that is, it uses so many aspects of a person’s being.

Music is also the only art form that moves in so many different dimensions. A painting stays the same if you look at it five minutes later. Interpretation can grow but the work itself does not change. However, a piece of music develops over time and in space, and each performance is a new creation. Every musician will interpret the music in his or her own way. A composition develops creatively each time it is performed. For a composer that’s an exceptional process—every time. I love that my music is performed and recorded by different ensembles. This makes the creative expression grow."

4.) From your experience, what other factors drive children’s creativity?

"We have to respect the thoughts and vision of children. When they go to school, we must teach and motivate them, and encourage them to take various points of view on the things they are learning. They are open—they listen and feel. When limits appear, their creativity has to be stimulated. Creativity is driven from within the child, from education, from culture, from surroundings… The challenge is to help children keep the balance."

5.) What do you enjoy most about your work with children?

"I am happy when I see children so proud of a composition or improvisation they have created. I feel joy when they express themselves with their “fantasy” and are really “in the music”—in another dimension beyond this world. When they create and discover the magic of creation that is inspiring! I know why I’m doing what I do when I see students fulfilled when coming out of their music class or standing on stage and performing their own piece or improvisation."

 Last Words

“ Music is an outburst of the soul.”

 ~ European Composer, Frederick Delius

Indeed, music has the potential to open people’s hearts and minds. Hanne Deneire, and others who work to inspire children, know the value of unlocking that potential, by nurturing creative expression and composition, and by providing instruction and encouragement. Children are thus able to engage in music, and also experience learning, pleasure, and personal growth.

Additional Information

To learn more about Hanne Deneire and her programs (including House of Music, and Children Are Composers) go to https://www.hannedeneire.com/homepage-hd

For more information on topics related to this article, visit www.joannefoster.ca, and see “Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids,” as well as “Being Smart about Gifted Education” (both by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster).

Check out Nancy Kopman’s website at http://nancykopman.com. Nancy is a musician, composer, performer, and educator who understands that music is an exciting, purposeful, and interactive ticket to creativity, joy, and learning.

Raffi Cavoukian is a musician, and a dynamo in the music industry. Find out more about his decades of experience working with children, including his compositions, videos, concerts, and more at http://www.raffinews.com

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