Should You Insist on Music?

Enhanced auditory response for those who have had brief musical training as children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Many believe that musical training is very beneficial for children. It may help improve memory and logic, but does a year of musical training carry benefits once those children grow up? The answer may surprise you.

A new study suggests that adults who have had one to five years of musical training as children retain benefits later in life.

Such adults were found to have a greater ability to process complex sounds.

"Try to interest your child in musical lessons."

“Musical training as children makes better listeners later in life," said Nina Kraus, PhD, professor of Neurobiology in Physiology and Communication Sciences at Northwestern University. "The study suggests that short-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning."

The researchers asked 45 adult participants to listen to complex sounds. The participants were divided into three groups. The first group had no musical training, the second had between one and five years of training and the third had six to eleven years.

All of the participants with musical training started around nine years old, a common age for children to begin learning music in school.

Participants were asked to listen to eight different complex sounds while researchers monitored electrical signals in their brains. By analyzing these signals, researchers were able to assess how well the participant’s auditory system was capturing the sounds.

The team found that those with musical training showed significant gains in auditory perception over the group with no training at all. Interestingly, there was no significant difference between the two groups that had received musical training.

Other research has suggested that enhanced auditory response is linked with better working memory, attention, problem solving, and other cognitive functions.

"We help address a question on every parent's mind: 'Will my child benefit if she plays music for a short while but then quits training?'" Kraus said. "A few years of music lessons also confer advantages in how one perceives and attends to sounds in everyday communication situations, such as noisy restaurants or rides on the "L," Kraus said.

The team hopes that this and further research will aid in the development of educational and rehabilitation programs.

The study was published August 22, 2012 in the Journal of Neuroscience and was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Knowles Hearing Center at Northwestern University. The study authors declare no financial conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 22, 2012
Last Updated:
August 23, 2012