Music Helps Babies’ Language Skills
A child doesn’t have to be the next Mozart or Clapton or John Legend to benefit from early exposure to a musical instrument.
A new study suggests that it may be a good idea to put down the reading books and pick up a simple musical toy. According to research from the University of Washington, early music training may help benefit speech learning later on, by improving the child’s ability to detect patterns in complex sounds -- a vital skill for talking.
The study team randomly assigned 47 nine-month old infants to either take part in a musical intervention group or a control group. The infants exhibited a normal range of babbling, but none had any words at this age. During the musical intervention sessions, the children were subjected to toys that played specific tunes.
With caregiver help, the babies tapped out the beat of the music using maracas or their feet or were bounced in synchronization of the musical beats. The control infants played with toy cars, blocks, or other objects that needed to be stacked or moved.
Those babies exposed to the musical objects showed enhanced neural activity in auditory and prefrontal cortical regions in response to both the music and speech sounds.
The reason for this may be as simple as the old musician’s adage -- practice makes perfect. Because music experience and exposure helps to improve the infant’s ability to detect patterns in complex sounds, they are then better able to predict timing of future sensory events, most importantly speech.