Musical training influences linguistic abilities in 8-year-old children: more evidence for brain plasticity

Cereb Cortex. 2009 Mar;19(3):712-23. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhn120. Epub 2008 Oct 1.

Abstract

We conducted a longitudinal study with 32 nonmusician children over 9 months to determine 1) whether functional differences between musician and nonmusician children reflect specific predispositions for music or result from musical training and 2) whether musical training improves nonmusical brain functions such as reading and linguistic pitch processing. Event-related brain potentials were recorded while 8-year-old children performed tasks designed to test the hypothesis that musical training improves pitch processing not only in music but also in speech. Following the first testing sessions nonmusician children were pseudorandomly assigned to music or to painting training for 6 months and were tested again after training using the same tests. After musical (but not painting) training, children showed enhanced reading and pitch discrimination abilities in speech. Remarkably, 6 months of musical training thus suffices to significantly improve behavior and to influence the development of neural processes as reflected in specific pattern of brain waves. These results reveal positive transfer from music to speech and highlight the influence of musical training. Finally, they demonstrate brain plasticity in showing that relatively short periods of training have strong consequences on the functional organization of the children's brain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation / methods
  • Age Factors
  • Aptitude / physiology*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Music*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Pitch Discrimination / physiology
  • Reading
  • Speech / physiology*