Music training develops not only musical processing skills but also cognitive abilities related to children’s development. A recent study revealed that learning to play musical instruments included active auditory, somatosensory, visual systems, and motor, executive, and affective systems. Moreover, structural and functional brain differences are observed in children engaged in music classes and children. Inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility are the main attributes of music training that affect child development. Factors such as playing in the group, reading music notes, and duration of music training were associated with developing cognitive skills in children. In addition to that, music training is responsible for macro and micro transformations of the brain structure. It would be stated that music training positively impacts children’s development, enhancing non-musical cognitive and executive function skills.
The study conducted by Habibi et al. emphasized the importance of learning music in a child’s cognitive development. The longitudinal study, which included 75 children at the age of 6 and 7, conducted their neural, mental, and socioemotional development (2). All children were selected from equal socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, which was below the poverty guidelines. Moreover, 94% of them were raised in a bilingual environment (Habibi et al. 3). Two control groups included children who participated in sports classes and were not involved in any afterschool training. Each child participated only in one kind of activity: music, sport, or non of them. The study covered several tests, including behavioral assessments, Wechsler abbreviated scale of intelligence, behavioral color-word Stroop task, tonal discrimination task, and imagining (Habibi et al. 3). The analysis also contained revision of the brain structure of participants.
The results showed notable variation between children in music groups and sports groups. All participants showed normal brain development for their age and environment. However, children in music groups had a more considerable reduction of thickness and volume of the left-right posterior superior gyrus (Habibi et al. 5). This trend revealed anatomical differences between the two children’s categories. Moreover, during the color-word Stroop task, which assesses reaction and accuracy, children’s music classes showed a greater neural activity (Habibi et al. 5). Brain regions responsible for inhibition, such as the bilateral inferior frontal gyrus, anterior cingulate, and precentral gyrus, differed in two categories (Habibi et al. 5). The further study highlighted that after 2-year musical training, children had higher callosal connectivity at the anterior portion of the CC. Habibi et al. explain this by the fact that playing musical instruments demands bilateral cortical processing of sounds, hands coordination, and auditory and motor systems integration. Additionally, music training appears to be more effective in executive function development than sport.
Without any extra curriculum classes, children’s performance was generally poorer than those involved in music and sport. Comparing children who did not participate in any afterschool training and are interested in music classes, Habibi et al. observed higher level of reaction and accuracy of those involved in music (6). Further investigation declared no significant difference notices in inhibition-related performance of the sport and music groups, while children without any activities underperformed. Habibi et al. explain this by stating that music training varies in a cognitive organization on executive function, while sports classes require focus and sensorimotor integration (7). Furthermore, the brain development of those who are not involved in any activities did not show any significant features.
To conclude, music training considerably improved children’s cognitive and executive function development. Children involved in music classes showed the highest result in mental and executive function development compared to those who participated in sport and who are not engaged in any other activities. Music skills developed bilateral frontal inferior gyrus and its functions. Learning music plays a significant role in neural and behavioral child development.
Habibi, Assal, et al. “Music Training and Child Development: a Review of Recent Findings from a Longitudinal Study.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 1423, no. 1, 2018, pp. 73–81., doi:10.1111/nyas.13606.