An article published recently in the scientific journals Developmental Science and Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences reveals that McMaster University researchers have discovered in a first study of its kind that very early musical training benefits children before they are able to walk or talk.
The findings revealed that parents who take their infants of one-year to participate in interactive music classes communicate better, they smile more, and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.
Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind remarks:
"Many past studies of musical training have focused on older children. Our results suggest that the infant brain might be particularly plastic with regard to musical exposure."
In 2008, Trainor and David Gerry, a music educator and graduate student, received an award from the Grammy Foundation to study the impact of musical training in infancy.
In their recent study, Trainor and Gerry studied babies and their parents who participated weekly in one of two types of music instruction over a six months period. In one of the classes the infants were interactive in making music, learning to play percussion instruments and taking turns as well as singing specific songs and learning a small range of lullabies, nursery rhymes and songs with actions.
The other music class entailed infants and parents playing at various toy stations whilst Baby Einstein recordings played in the background. None of the infants had previously participated in other baby music classes and prior to the start of the classes, all infants had a similar level of communication and social development skills.
"Babies who participated in the interactive music classes with their parents showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music. Specifically, they preferred to listen to a version of a piano piece that stayed in key, versus a version that included out-of-key notes. Infants who participated in the passive listening classes did not show the same preferences. Even their brains responded to music differently. Infants from the interactive music classes showed larger and/or earlier brain responses to musical tones."
The researchers observed that the infants' non-musical differences between both groups were even more astonishing, with infants from the interactive classes demonstrating better early communication skills, such as pointing at objects that are out of reach, or waving goodbye. The researchers observed that these infants also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and were less distressed when things were unfamiliar or didn't go their way.
Even though the infants listened to music in both music classes and all infants also listened to a similar amount of music at home, the biggest difference between both classes was that one class experienced an interactive exposure to music.
Study coordinator Andrea Unrau concluded, saying:
"There are many ways that parents can connect with their babies. The great thing about music is, everyone loves it and everyone can learn simple interactive musical games together."