Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
The long-held belief that early exposure to music helps a child perform better in learning tasks like math, reading, and concentration is under scrutiny by a pair of new studies. The New York Times has more:
In one trial, 15 4-year-olds accompanied by their parents attended six weekly 45-minute classes on musical arts and a matched group of 14 attended classes on visual arts.
In a second test, 23 4-year-olds and their parents were assigned to music classes, and 22 to no classes at all. Children living with professional musicians and those already taking music lessons were excluded, and there were no significant differences between the groups in age, family income, ethnicity, parents’ level of education and other factors. The results were published in PLOS One.
Researchers tested the children after the classes were completed for skills in spatial, linguistic and numerical reasoning, but found no differences between the groups.
The authors acknowledge that they used only one music curriculum, and that a trial with a different kind or intensity of training might produce different results.
Image: Child playing piano, via Shutterstock
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Monday, November 4th, 2013
Babies who are exposed to melodies while still in the womb may be able to learn it–and to recognize it when they hear it after they’ve been born, according to a new Finnish study published in the journal PLOS One. More from The New York Times:
For the study, published online last week by PLOS One, Finnish researchers divided 24 pregnant women into two groups. Five times a week, the “learning group” played a CD that included a one-minute rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” which the unborn children heard an average of 170 times before birth. The control group did not hear the recording.
Then the scientists did EEG tests on the children at birth and again at 4 months as they listened to the original tune and a version in which several notes were altered.
The learning group had a larger response to the melody than the control group did, and the difference was still apparent at 4 months. And the amplitude of response to the changed melody correlated with the number of times the infants were exposed to the original melody in utero.
Image: Pregnant woman with music, via Shutterstock
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Friday, July 19th, 2013
The simple act of listening to music has been found to reduce the amount of pain children perceive when they’re in the emergency room, a new study by medical researchers at the University of Alberta has found. More from ScienceDaily.com:
The team conducted a clinical research trial of 42 children between the ages of 3 and 11 who came to the pediatric emergency department at the Stollery Children’s Hospital and needed IVs. Some of the children listened to music while getting an IV, while others did not. Researchers measured the children’s distress, perceived pain levels and heart rates, as well as satisfaction levels of parents, and satisfaction levels of health-care providers who administered the IVs. The trial took place between January 2009 and March 2010.
“We did find a difference in the children’s reported pain — the children in the music group had less pain immediately after the procedure,” says Hartling. “The finding is clinically important and it’s a simple intervention that can make a big difference. Playing music for kids during painful medical procedures would be an inexpensive and easy-to-use intervention in clinical settings.”
The research showed that the children who listened to music reported significantly less pain, some demonstrated significantly less distress, and the children’s parents were more satisfied with care.
In the music listening group, 76 per cent of health-care providers said the IVs were very easy to administer — a markedly higher number than the non-music group where only 38 per cent of health-care providers said the procedure was very easy. Researchers also noticed that the children who had been born premature experienced more distress overall.
Image: Music, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Listening to live music, whether strummed on a guitar or hummed by a parent, is soothing and healthy for babies who are born prematurely, a new study has shown. The New York Times has more:
Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City led the research, conducted in 11 hospitals, which found that live music can be beneficial to premature babies. In the study, music therapists helped parents transform their favorite tunes into lullabies.
The researchers concluded that live music, played or sung, helped to slow infants’ heartbeats, calm their breathing, improve sucking behaviors important for feeding, aid sleep and promote states of quiet alertness. Doctors and researchers say that by reducing stress and stabilizing vital signs, music can allow infants to devote more energy to normal development.
And while the effects may be subtle, small improvements can be significant. Premature births have increased since 1990, to nearly 500,000 a year, one of every nine children born in the United States.
The study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, adds to growing research on music and preterm babies. Some hospitals find music as effective as, and safer than, sedating infants before procedures like heart sonograms and brain monitoring. Some neonatologists say babies receiving music therapy leave hospitals sooner, which can aid development and family bonding and save money.
Image: Mother rocking baby, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Music lessons have long been a favorite among parents who want their children to have exposure to the arts, and numerous studies have shown benefits ranging from auditory skills to better performance in mathematics. But a new study adds a new benefit of early music lessons: advanced brain wave development that persists well beyond the end of the lessons themselves. The New York Times has more:
Researchers at Northwestern University recorded the auditory brainstem responses of college students — that is to say, their electrical brain waves — in response to complex sounds. The group of students who reported musical training in childhood had more robust responses — their brains were better able to pick out essential elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds when they were tested. And this was true even if the lessons had ended years ago.
Indeed, scientists are puzzling out the connections between musical training in childhood and language-based learning — for instance, reading. Learning to play an instrument may confer some unexpected benefits, recent studies suggest.
We aren’t talking here about the “Mozart effect,” the claim that listening to classical music can improve people’s performance on tests. Instead, these are studies of the effects of active engagement and discipline. This kind of musical training improves the brain’s ability to discern the components of sound — the pitch, the timing and the timbre.
“To learn to read, you need to have good working memory, the ability to disambiguate speech sounds, make sound-to-meaning connections,” said Professor Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. “Each one of these things really seems to be strengthened with active engagement in playing a musical instrument.”
Image: Child playing a recorder, via Shutterstock
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