Music: John Medina’s “Brain Rules for Baby”

10 years of music lessons

There’s another powerful way to fine-tune a child’s hearing for the emotional aspects of speech: musical training.  Researchers in the Chicago area showed that musically experienced kids – those who studied any instrument for at least 10 years, starting before age 7- responded with greased-lightning speed to subtle variations in emotion-laden cues, such as a baby’s cry.  The scientists tracked changes in the timing, pitch, and timbre of the baby’s cry, all the while eavesdropping on the musician’s brainstem (the most ancient part of the brain) to see what happened.

Kids with rigorous musical training didn’t show much discrimination at all. They didn’t pick up on the fine-grained information embedded in the signal and were, so to speak, more emotionally tone deaf. Dana Strait, first author of the study, wrote: “That their brains respond more quickly and accurately than the brains of non-musicians is something we’d expect to translate into the perception of emotion in other settings.”

This finding is remarkable clear, beautifully practical, and a bit unexpected. It suggests that if you want happy kids later in life, get them started on a musical journey early in life. Then make sure they stick with it until they are old enough to start filling out their applications to Harvard, probably humming all the way.

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One Comment on “Music: John Medina’s “Brain Rules for Baby””

  1. barbara says:

    this is wholly fascinating, and something i have never ever read before….music and emotion in the young child…..makes perfect sense. a wise woman i recently talked to for a story about music and kids made a beautiful point on just this subject, but not in this way. i will dig up the quote from the story…….
    i will hum on this for awhile…..xoxox


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