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The Incredible Learning Power of Music

A great way to improve learning at every age is through the magic of music. You see, certain kinds of music can actually stimulate your child’s higher cognitive functioning and help their development.

In a phenomenon known as the “Mozart effect”, listening to music creates a positive emotional response which, in turn, improves cognitive functioning. Research tells us that listening to certain classics, like Mozart, helps to improve spatial-temporal reasoning in the short term. If Mozart isn’t your cup of tea, you have many other options to choose from. Any kind of baroque music like Teleman or Vivaldi and ambient music that has a tempo of 60 beats per second will help.

Later studies showed that any music with an energetic beat or positive emotional qualities had the potential to stimulate the spatial-temporal functioning.

This is the part of the brain that helps you to understand complex concepts or solve difficult problems. For example, a study by Rauscher, Shaw and Ky (1993) discovered that those subjects who listened to Mozart prior to completing an IQ test scored higher than those who did not listen to music.

Another study in rats found that pregnant rats exposed to Mozart produced offspring that were better at maze learning.

While these changes are temporary, learning music from an early age can have tangible, long-lasting improvements in brain functioning: “It’s very clear from a number of experiments that if you do musical training, you find changes in brain structures attributable to that training. There are experiments that show that changes are greater if you begin musical training by about the age of seven. They’re still there if you begin later, but smaller in magnitude,” says neuropsychologist Robert Zatorre from McGill University.

Neuroscientists from Boston Children’s Hospital found a link between the introduction of musical instruments at an early age and improved cognitive functioning. “Since executive functioning is a strong predictor of academic achievement, even more than IQ, we think our findings have strong educational implications.While many schools are cutting music programs and spending more and more time on test preparation, our findings suggest that musical training may actually help to set up children for a better academic future,” said head researcher, Nadine Gaab.

The greatest impact of music on cognitive functioning occurs when music is introduced before the child turns seven as it creates more extensive connectivity between different parts of the brain and also improves the ability to integrate sensory input.

If your child finds music distracting, try ambient sounds such as whale songs, waterfalls, ocean waves and other natural sounds. Eno’s “Music for airports” is specifically designed to relax and calm tired travellers in airports. Eno’s background music heightens your mood and occupies those parts of your brain that may cause distractions while you are studying.

Pic by Steve Snodgrass