According to researchers at McMaster University in Canada, very early music training can benefit children, before they even learn to walk or talk. The researchers found that one-year-old babies who participated in interactive music classes with their parents smiled more, communicated better and showed earlier and more sophisticated brain reactions to music. Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind and a lead researcher on the study, said that while "many past studies of musical training have focused on older children, our results suggest that the infant brain might be particularily plastic with regard to musical exposure."
Want a Less Fussy, Easier-to-Soothe, Kinder Child? Make Music!
Maia Szalavitz, TIME Healthland (May 2012)
The actively-trained infants were less distressed by frustration, showed less anxiety about new experiences, smiled and laughed more and were easier to soothe. The researchers write, “the active classes led to more positive parent-infant social interactions compared to the passive classes.”
Anthony McGovern, Life's Little Mysteries (April 2012)
Having spent most of our time evolving prior to the invention of smoke detectors, elevators and the like, our brains can't quite grasp beep sounds, so they irritate us. "There's just something fundamentally different about the way your brain is processing sounds with natural envelopes," said Michael Schutz, assistant professor of music at McMaster University in Ontario and a researcher at the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind.
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Musical Babies on CBC
Victoria Fenner, CBC Radio 2 In Concert (2010)
“Music educators will tell you, 'don't give [young children] complex rhythms, because it's very very difficult for them to learn. Wait until they're even older before you give them anything that's complicated'. But what we're finding is that young babies can do the complex rhythms, they can hear them perfectly well.... We're showing that what infants are listening to and the particular experiences they're having even before one year of age, is already wiring up their brain in a particular way. And in fact the brain is probably most plastic at these early ages, and so maybe we should be thinking about what kinds of music programs we want to have for very young children."
El Sistema and the Transformational Power of Music
Anne McIlroy, The Globe and Mail (July, 2011)
“People focus so much on cognitive benefits. I think there are some, but I don't think they are as large as people would like them to be," says Laurel Trainor, a scientist at McMaster University in Hamilton who studies music and the developing brain. "I think the social and emotional benefits are just enormous and we are just starting to comprehend that."
Daily Commercial News and Construction Record (August 2011)
"Scientists, researchers and musicians will study the physical and emotional reactions to music and how it affectes language, cognitive and social abilities. The two-storey-high theatre is the first of its kind in the world. Engineering it has presented unusual challenges."
“[Young] brains are getting wired to integrate the senses,” says Laurel Trainor, professor and director of the auditory development lab at McMaster University. She has found that even young babies can distinguish the difference between songs sung as lullabies and those used in play.