Share it! Science : Music to Our Ears: Connections between Music and Language Development

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Music to Our Ears: Connections between Music and Language Development

     A recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience indicates that 2 is the magic number when it comes to brain development associated with musical training. A team of researchers led by Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist from Northwestern University, evaluated brain responses in children enrolled in an enrichment music training program in Los Angeles. After 2 years of training, rather than only one, students could more easily distinguish the spoken sounds "ba" and "ga". These particular sounds are more difficult to discern if you have dyslexia or a language impairment. Perhaps studies like this will help us to understand how to support children in their reading and language skills.
      This study is just one in a long line of recent research that indicates connections between music and brain development. Other studies have suggested that musicianship can improve memory, fine motor skills and the ability to pay attention to one thing while ignoring something else. This could be advantageous for students in classrooms where there is a lot of activity or noise. In one study, 6-year-olds who had 15 months of weekly keyboard lessons showed greater changes in their ability to control their finger movements and identify melodies and rhythm than students who attended music classes without instrument training. Parts of the brain that processes language also process music, which allows those with the ability to recognize errors in sentence syntax also recognize errors in chord structure. Clearly there is strong evidence linking musical training and language development.
      With the common core's focus on literacy, I'd say this is compelling evidence to re-invest funds for music programming in schools. Is it too late for me to dust off my clarinet and give it another go?

Read more:

Music and Sound Science activities for Kids:

Sound Uncovered- An interactive book for the iPad from the Exploratorium (FREE)

ZoomSci: Sound activities from PBS's ZOOM

Science of Music: Exploratorium online exhibits

Science Fair Project: The Effect of Music on Memory

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