Just as I finish writing a post that encourages parents to introduce kids to music for the sheer joy of it, a study comes out that says early music training leads to some very interesting and lasting adult cognitive benefits. I couldn’t pass it up.
A 2010 study has already indicated musical training shapes neural auditory structures in such a way that isn’t just music-specific. Participants with musical training had more fine-tuned mechanisms for hearing certain aspects of sounds like timbre, timing, and pitch. They also had better selective attention skills.
If you think these enhanced capacities are only good for processing music, think about how many subtle auditory fluctuations happen in everyday speech. Better pitch recognition could mean understanding the difference between a statement and a question. Timbre and timing is necessary in determining the emotions and intentions of a speaker. On top of all that, people with musical training can segregate sounds (like individual speaking voices) from noisy audioscapes (like bars during happy hour).
This newest article suggests that the enhanced auditory capacities found in musically trained individuals last long after they stop training. The adult participants who took music lessons as children showed more robust auditory responses than those who hadn’t, implying a few years of music lessons during childhood can benefit people for the rest of their lives.
This lasting benefit is especially valuable to older adults. Most older adults experience peripheral hearing loss (hearing loss as relates to the ears), but early music training could give them the cognitive boost they need to compensate for that mechanical hearing loss.
Long story short, invest a little time in music when you’re young, and reap the rewards for years to come… Not to mention, well, music is just awesome.