Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Music is good for babies' social and communicative skills

Making music has been associated with certain changes in the brain. A recent study has shown that you do not necessarily have to be the one making the music to benefit from its effect on the brain. Even babies, of about one year old, appear to improve certain skills under the influence of music. It may be something parents want to consider when they raise their children.

Music instructions
In their study, scientists from the McMaster University gave two groups of one-year-olds music lessons. One of the classes was made interactive, and required the parents to participate. Together, they played various instruments and learned some simple songs. In the second group, infants were left to play alone while listening to music of 'Baby Einstein'.
The scientists found that the infants participating in the interactive music class were more advanced in both social and communication skills, as observed by waving, pointing at things and smiling. They were also easier to soothe and were less distressed in uncommon situations. Music-wise, they showed a clear preference towards listening to tunes that are in key, compared to out-of-key tunes. The scientists did not find this behaviour in the group where infants were left to play alone. Additionally, they found a difference in brain signalling between the two groups: those in the interactive group showed an earlier and stronger brain response towards music, indicating that their musical lessons translated to lasting changes in the brain.

Music is a peculiar thing. Humans, or even some animals, like rhythmical tunes, which often evoke emotional responses. For birds, music is especially important, and a lot of them learn to sing. They use it to attract members of the opposite sex or for communication. When birds grow up, they have to be exposed to their 'song', otherwise they will not be able to learn it. They are sensitive to learning music only early in development, and this trait is lost later in life. It seems humans partly function in the same way.

It seems that music can be used to improve a baby's social and communicative skills. It also helps to develop 'feeling' for music, as demonstrated with the preference of tunes that are in key. The study shows that parents could do with the help of music to interact with their children. Naturally, any form of social interaction will help a baby's skills develop, but music is likely to be a stimulating factor. Regardless of its functional use, it is peculiar to see that we seem to have a built-in mechanism that makes us susceptible to music, with lasting brain changes that translate into improved communication and social skills. 

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