Children that start learning a musical instrument before the age of seven develop their motor skills faster than others, claim Canadian scientists.
As experts at the Concordia University in Montreal say, it shows that at the age of 6-8 music education interacts with the growth rate of motor skills in children, causing long-term changes in the brain.
“Learning a musical instrument requires synchronization between the movements of the hands and the received audiovisual stimuli,” explains the lead researcher of the study and professor of psychology Virginia Penhune. “The earlier a child starts music lessons, the better the connection between motor skills and sensory areas of the brain will be”.
With the help of imaging techniques, the researchers studied the brain of 36 musicians during the execution of (non-musical) motor skills exercises. The musicians were divided into two groups: those who had started to learn music before the age of seven and those who had started later. The study included another group of volunteers who had never learned music.
The results showed that volunteers who had begun to learn music early showed greater accuracy in synchronizing their movements than the others. The brain scans revealed white matter accumulated in corpus, a bundle of nerve fibers which connect the motor regions of the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
In contrast, tests of the volunteers who started learning music later and those who had never learned music did not show any difference in the development of specific areas of the brain. This, as the researchers say, could mean that these changes can take place either at an early age or never.
Of course, the scientists emphasize that it does not mean that if a small child begins to learn music, he will necessarily become a great composer of classical music.
“These findings suggest that those who early start learning music gain some skills and changes in certain brain regions that last for a lifetime,” explains Dr. Penhune. “That does not necessarily mean that they will become better musicians than others. Musical performances require skills, as well as communication, enthusiasm, personal style, and many other non-estimable qualities. Learning a musical instrument at an early age could help the expression of genius, but it does not automatically make us music geniuses.”