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Early Music Lessons Boost Brain Development

“If you started…lessons in grade one, or played the recorder in kindergarten, thank your parents and teachers. Those lessons you dreaded – or loved – helped develop your brain. The younger you started music lessons, the stronger the connections in your brain.”

-Virginia Penhune, Professor in Concordia’s Department of Psychology



Last month a study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, stated that musical training before the age of seven developed stronger connections in the motor regions of the brain. Thirty-six adult musicians were given a task involving movement. Each of them were tested and their brains were scanned. Half of the musicians started their musical training before the age of seven, while the other half started later, but both groups had the same amount of experience and training, as far as years go. These two groups were compared with individuals who grew up having little to no lessons or formal training.

The musicians who began music lessons before the age of seven showed more accurate timing after only two days of practice. Those that received this jumpstart in life displayed “enhanced white matter in the corpus callosum, a bundle of nerve fibres that connects the left and right motor regions of the brain.” The researchers discovered that the younger the musician started, the greater the connections in that part of the brain.

“This study is significant in showing that training is more effective at early ages because certain aspects of brain anatomy are more sensitive to changes at those time points,” says co-author, Dr. Zatorre, who is also the co-director of the International Laboratory for Brain Music and Sound Research.


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