There was a lot of craze a decade or two back about the so-called “Mozart effect”. The idea was that by simply playing Mozart for your child, you could boost brain functioning and maybe even increase IQ!
Does Music Really Make You Smarter?
Well, the most recent studies show that to make a lasting positive change in the brain, passive listening is not enough. You have to actively participate by playing music. Researchers are finding that active music making DOES change the brain in unique and positive ways. For example, one 2004 study (involving 144 6-year-olds randomly assigned to either piano lessons, drama lessons, or nothing) revealed higher IQ scores for the kids who received piano lessons. There are other studies that reveal similar trends.
How Learning to Play Music Affects Your Brain
You can read a great Article in the LA Times by Melissa Healy summarizing some of the most recent research on how making music affects the brain. I have selected a few of my favorite quotes from this article, and pasted them below for you to enjoy.
“Learning to make music changes the brain and boosts broad academic performance. Findings across the board suggest that, even for a kid who will not grow up to be a Wynton Marsalis or a Joshua Bell, spending money and time on music lessons and practice is a solid investment in mental fitness.”
“For those receiving musical instruction, ‘there is evidence that music changes the brain in positive and permanent ways,’ says Laurel Trainor, professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, and director of the auditory development lab of McMaster University in Toronto.”
“March, Schlaug and a team of researchers in Boston put 31 first-graders through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans, as well as a series of cognitive skills tests, to gauge the effect of 15 months of keyboard training. Compared with kids getting a playful group music class once a week, 6-year-olds who got intensive, weekly, one-on-one music instruction had greater and more widespread expansion in volume across many areas of their brains. And they performed better on tests of fine motor skill and of several other skills directly related to music.”
“A team led by Trainor reported that in kids chosen randomly to get a tightly structured instrumental training called the Suzuki method, brain responses were two to three years more mature on average than those in children not taking music lessons.”