After all the hoopla of the Mozart effect a decade ago, the pendulum swung the other way with naysayers deriding the efforts of well-intentioned government officials (i.e., former Georgia governor Zell Miller) to come alongside families and assist a parent’s efforts to enhance the possibilities of a child’s potential for learning by providing CD’s of classical music when newborn babies were born and sent home from the hospital.
While I deplore the outright antagonism of the pessimists, I will admit that I think that Zell Miller had it only half right. Listening alone to music is not enough. Children learn best when they move and multiple modalities are involved, and this new study confirms that.
From the Journal-Times of Racine, WI:
Mozart’s Legacy: Early music lessons may help children later in life ,
by David Steinkraus
Scientific research has found some basis for the notion that music instruction stimulates general intelligence. About 10 years ago that was called the Mozart effect, the result of some research that reported that listening to a Mozart sonata increased the ability of some college students on a test of mental ability. Popular wisdom twisted that into the notion that listening to music makes you smarter, which is more magic than science. What scientists say at the moment is that music instruction will make you smarter about music, and that for music to help children they need to begin instruction really, really early.
And another excerpt:
What we know so far is that music instruction has much longer-term benefits than listening to music,” said Frances Rauscher, 48, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Rauscher is one of the people who presented the first evidence on the Mozart effect.Rauscher did one study involving young children and rhythm instruction. “I found that after two years of instruction they scored significantly higher than children who received instruction in other things.”In doing math, especially something like geometry, she said, you depend on the same types of skills used in music — the ability to count out intervals over time and to move your hand in a certain space. Rauscher, who trained as a musician herself, said she thinks about a piece of music as a set of intervals spread out in time. “It’s a similar experience when I’m trying to solve a complex mathematical problem. I can see it.” But to realize these benefits children have to start instruction before the age of 6 or 7 and must have lessons for a couple of years at least, she said. That’s because the effects music seems to produce depend on the “plasticity” of the human brain. Plasticity, of which scientists are taking increasing notice, refers to the brain’s ability to change its circuitry at early ages.
“You’re still forming a lot of neural connections until you’re 6 or 7,” Rauscher said. After that, the brain starts pruning, strengthening some connections and eliminating others. By about age 11, your brain wiring is largely set, she said. Still to develop is the frontal cortex, which governs decision making but is mainly concerned with impulse control. That doesn’t stabilize until the early 20s, she said. (This explains teenagers.)
So give yourselves a pat on the back, parents, for providing your children with exactly what they need by participating in our Kindermusik classes – opportunities for creating and strengthening neural pathways that will improve their learning abilities later in life, even though they think it’s a fun-filled, magical play-time with you! 🙂
To read the article in its entirety, please visit the Journal-Times here.
Many thanks to Injoy Music for sharing with us.