Music May Help Boost Babies’ Learning Skills: Study

Posted: Apr 26 2016, 6:33am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 27 2016, 7:55pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Music may Help Boost Babies’ Learning Skills: Study
Photo Credit: Getty Images

New research suggests that listening to music improves kids cognitive skills and helps them learn language faster.

Music can improve cognitive skills of babies and can help them learn language quickly, a new study suggests.

According to research from the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS), listing to music can positively affect the development of a child’s brain. When infants were taken through a series of music sessions, they showed improved brain activity compared to those who went through play sessions without music.

“Our study is the first in young babies to suggest that experiencing a rhythmic pattern in music can also improve the ability to detect and make predictions about rhythmic patterns in speech,” said lead researcher Christina Zhao from I-LABS.

“This means that early, engaging musical experiences can have a more global effect on cognitive skills.”

To find out the effect of music on infant’s brain, researchers involved 39 babies alongside their parents in a lab experiment. Babies were 9 months old and were divided into groups. All of them went through play sessions for a month with each session lasting not more than 12 to 15 minutes. 

In one group thatt they call ‘music group,’ recordings of children’s music were played where a member from the research team taught the babies and the parents how to synchronize with the beat and music.

The other group attended play sessions without music. Those controlled sessions involved cars, blocks and other toys and coordination among participants to play with those toys.

“In both the music and control groups, we gave babies experiences that were social, required their active involvement and included body movements - these are all characteristics that we know help people learn,” Zhao said. “The key difference was whether the babies were moving to learn a musical rhythm.” 

After the end of the experiments, babies were brought back to the lab so their responses can be measured. Babies listened to a series of music and speech sound in a rhythmic way with occasional disruption.  In the meantime, they had their brains scanned too. During the scanning, a specific activity was noticed which indicated that babies could detect flaws and disruption. 

Brain scanning showed that music group had strong responses to the disruption in those regions of the brains that are associated with cognitive skills, attention and detection of patterns compared to those in the controlled group.

When infants recognized the pattern of activity or learned how to synchronize with music, it improved their overall learning ability as well. They have in their mind what is going to happen next and if it does not go the same way they expected, they realize it too.

“Infants experience a complex world in which sounds, lights and sensations vary constantly. Pattern perception is an important cognitive skill, and improving that ability early may have long-lasting effects on learning,” said co-author Patricia Kuhl.

“This research reminds us that the effects of engaging in music go beyond music itself. Music experience has the potential to boost broader cognitive skills that enhance children’s ability to detect, expect and react quickly to patterns in the world, which is highly relevant in today’s complex world.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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