Early Musical Training Helps Infants

Infants who participate in active music classes show improved communication skills

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

(RxWiki News) You may have heard that musical training can help children develop and do better in school. So how early can you start musical training? The answer might surprise you.

According to a new study, the benefits of actively learning about music can benefit infants who are too young to walk or speak. Infants who participated in an active music learning class with their parents showed a higher preference for music, better and earlier communication, decreased irritability and more smiling and laughter.

"Look for an active musical training class in your area."

"Babies who participated in the interactive music classes with their parents showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music," said Laurel Trainor, PhD, director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind.

"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,” she continued. “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."

Researchers worked with 52 infants and their parents in the training programs. The group was split into two groups, the active and passive learning groups. Both programs involved one hour classes once a week for six months. All infants were about 6 months in age.

The active listening class involved infants and parents interacting to learn lullabies and nursery rhymes. They were provided with a CD to take home to help learn the material.

The passive listening class played with art supplies, balls, stacking cups, and others while popular infant-oriented music played in the background. Every week parents were given a different CD to listen to passively.

Of the whole, 38 families completed more than 75 percent of the classes and underwent a listening test. Additionally, researchers tested 26 infants who had not undergone any music classes at all.

The Infant Behavior Questionnaire (IBQ) was used to measure infant’s distress, smiling and laughter, soothability, and other behavior metrics.

The team found that infants in the active class showed a higher preference to correct tonality in music than those infants in the passive class or with no class at all. Interestingly, the infants in the active class also smiled more, were easier to soothe and showed less signals of distress when presented with a new environment.

The study was published in the May 2012 edition of the journal Developmental Science and Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences and was funded by the Grammy Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 12, 2012
Last Updated:
October 24, 2012