New study demonstrates link between music and statistical learning

New study demonstrates link between music and statistical learning

The Age has reported on a new study showing that children who study music outside of school for at least 18 months have improved brain activity results. Dr Mandikal-Vasuki’s research found that focused musical training gives children an advantage in the classroom.

New study demonstrates link between music and statistical learning

The Age – 15 May 2017

It’s no secret that learning music is good for the brain. Now a study has looked at the effects of learning music in childhood on auditory and visual skills.

“This is the first study to evaluate auditory and visual learning in the same group of people,” said Macquarie University auditory cognitive neuroscientist Pragati Mandikal-Vasuki.

The results showed that children exposed to at least a year and a half of private music lessons have an edge when it comes to detecting patterns in the world around us, with musical instrument training making their brains better at statistical learning.

“This is a key building block of learning a language, learning to read and also learning a second language,” Dr Mandikal-Vasuki said. “It’s a fundamental ability.”

The results outlined in the journal Clinical Neurophysiology suggests that music-based therapies could potentially be used to treat specific learning impairments.

Dr Mandikal-Vasuki said the study showed music training boosted a child’s ability to spot statistical patterns in sound cues, enabling them to predict what would happen next.

Two groups of 25 children aged 9-11 participated in the study. One group was made up of students who had undertaken private music lessons for at least 18 months, while the other group of 25 hadn’t had any private music lessons.

Behavioural testing revealed children who had had some musical training had better melody, rhythm and frequency discrimination. This was confirmed with EEG scans, which measure brain activity. These scans showed the musically trained children were faster to detect patterns in auditory and visual tasks than their peers without musical training.

“We were surprised with the brain activity results especially because they revealed that as little as a year-and-a-half of music training made a difference,” Dr Mandikal-Vasuki said.


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