Creative illustration of the brain

A child’s brain develops faster with exposure to music education

A two-year study by researchers at the Brain and Creativity Institute (BCI) at the University of Southern California shows that exposure to music and music instruction accelerates the brain development of young children in the areas responsible for language development, sound, reading skill and speech perception.

There is an update to this study here and we hope to have a new update very soon.

The study of 6-7-year-old children began in 2012, when neuroscientists started monitoring a group of 37 children from an underprivileged neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Thirteen of them received music instruction through the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles Program where they practiced up to seven hours each week.

Eleven children were enrolled in a community-based soccer programme, and another 13 children were not involved in any training programme at all.

The researchers compared the three groups by tracking the electrical activity in the brains, conducting behavioural testing and monitored changes using brain scans.

The results showed that the auditory systems of the children in the music programme had accelerated faster than the other children not engaged in music. Dr. Assal Habibi, the lead author of the study and a senior research associate at the BCI, explained that the auditory system is stimulated by music and the system is also engaged in general sound processing. This is essential to reading skills, language development and successful communication.

Science Direct:
Science World Report:
University of Southern California:
Southern California Public Radio:
News Medical:
Slipped Disc:


DATE: 2016


      1. They don’t need to be able to read music. They can listen and play or
        sing back. I’ve seen this myself. Its quite obvious in all the children who start in the Yamaha school of music and Sistema at a young age, stay with it for years and practice any style of music.


    1. I hope it doesn’t have to be blue (the picture of the brain), or blues. I would go for Rock,,,,maninoff, or Beat… haven, or Brew…beck, though.


  1. If lessons are tuned children learn the matter with ease just as they learn the lyrics of their favourite numbers .


  2. Superb blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you advise starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Bless you!


  3. I believe there is great potential when music is brought into the tactile experiences of those very early years children- 2-4 years- who are emotively crippled by psychopathy and other severe conduct disorders. Because the control of sound is both a product of internal and external action sequencing, I think such kids can learn measurable means of expressing the tumultuous feelings that so frequently overtakes them by matching impulsive moods to modulation techniques of certain primative instruments… all of which can be replayed and, in careful discourse, be transcribed for their examination. The idea here is to produce an ‘audiovisible’ replay of their expressing themselves. If this is successful in arresting extreme conduct expressions, there might be an inroad into exerting their own control over such impulsive and damaging reactions without the usual portcullis of severe physical and emotional interventions. I believe at this very critical time of Brain Development their minds are searching for something recognizable that they can reproduce… regardless of their immediate or approaching environment. Whether their “sympathetic symphonies” are percussive or highly musical in nature, I have been brought to firmly believe the Human Brain stores an innumerable number of melodies and beat sequences as a catalogued form of insuring self-preservation. If we as a civilized culture can teach all our very young children a basic mind-lubricating approach to Music, the peer-to-peer language of beauty and control can flow like children’s laughter, tears and support for one another. Our Brains are essentially tuned towards democracy, justice, and greater understanding of our earthly place in the heavens of our minds.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I think they have started using music as a therapy for traumatized children. The Safe and Sound protocol is one of these thapapies based on music.


  4. Sounds good but not convinced of the study methods. Would have been better design if, since using underprivileged kids, that a more realistic control group would have been a group that had a ‘privilege’ as well: the control group received nothing and the study group was given a ‘privilege’ of the music instruction, HOWEVER, the study group as a product of the intervention (music) also received the privilege of the attention of adults teaching them, interacting with other kids in different tasks (whether individual or group), being part of a “something”. given recognition for involvement with others and the feeling of belonging, having their self-esteem (though construct of ‘self-esteem’ requires more attention in the literature), exposure to enhanced auditory and visual and social communication environment and more. Too many confounding factors to take conclusions as you warrant. Maybe the factors that I mentioned as confounds are responsible for a significant or majority of the change in the conclusions. Need control or at least second control group that would receive the same level and attention kids in music intervention group receive but with a different purpose (art, sport, etc). Maybe it is just the totality of focused intervention with underprivileged kids that is the trick and not specifically the music per se. Also, there is the known limitation of such studies as measured with the Mozart music learning cd’s, other interventions that have been offered on internet and elsewhere where poor testing done and when there were any clear affects, these effects disappeared after a few years or even faster. Need to make the measurement clearer as well, and need to evaluate over longer term. I hope you can provide more rigor and continue these studies with good, clear methodology – I am a big fan of music especially classical and folk music, and would like to see that music can be helpful for children and even older persons (I am big fan of Levition’s research and that of others). For now, though, I have to say that it is the concentrated and involved intervention provided to underprivileged kids that brings about the change you attribute to the music intervention. This may be wrong but need to use different control group(s) to give more clarity.
    Thank you for your time and your work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your detailed comments, there are definitely challenges in ‘proving’ what aspect of the intervention made the difference. However, this is just one study, and it’s important to look at the evidence as a bank of research. By the way, we don’t carry out the research, we simply collate, summarise and share it! Thanks again for your thoughts, all the best, Anita & Dyfan


    2. If you read the first article cited (you only need to scan the abstract), you will see that they compare children of the same backgrounds doing music at YOLA, taking part in similar intensity sports instruction, and not taking part in either activity. Hope this helps!


  5. Reading all these comments and thoughts. I am frm nepal and in our country there r not one of the schools teaches with the help of ourour country the way teaching is a student carrying bag full of books and note evev i like to give knowledge to my 2 and half years daughter with the help of i couldnt able to give knowlesge with the help of plz give me ideas so i could give knowlege with music at home


    1. Hi Ishwor – I’m not sure but I’m going to ask my colleagues on social media and see if they can send some links, I will hopefully share something with you soon – all the best, Anita


      1. Hi again Ishwor,

        Jimmy Rotherham from a school in the north of England has shared this – I hope you find it helpful:

        Jimmy Rotheram – on Twitter as @MusicEdu4all – says:

        I’d recommend looking for early years Dalcroze activities online. Active Music Digital youtube channel also has lots of videos of Kodály games, which have very simple lyrics and are a good way of starting to learn English.

        Dalcroze Eurhythmics are all about movement, so no language barrier – maybe worth exploring?

        My colleague Kirsty at Gloucestershire Academy of Music says:

        Contact Babel Babies who do multi-lingual music and storytelling for very young children


  6. It seems that they define “brain development” based on *their* measurements of brain activity. Therefore, this study only shows that they know how to detect the effect of music on the brain but not how to detect the effects of other types of activities. To render it meaningful they should have been measuring the development of some desirable human skills (rather than physiological brain measurements).


    1. Processing auditory information is pre-skill. For instance, Improved processing leads to better language acquisition. Increasing understanding of language, increasing vocabulary, and better processing of meaning. Those are skill that result from better processing of language.


  7. I have run music sessions for under 5’s for the last 6 years and my youngest attended twice a week for 2 years from the age of 1. It may or not be related, but at age 6, he is above expectation in all areas at school and is hugely emotionally mature. I now use music to empower children and have written a musical programme to encourage self-belief, because one thing I know for sure is that music goes in – and it stays in. Rachel Davis, LaLa Tigers


  8. Thanks so much for your work. I am not surprised at the conclusions of your study. However, I am wondering if it would be feasible to do a larger scale study. A larger sample of each group would be great.


    1. Thanks for commenting Rob. I’m afraid the study isn’t ours – Music Education Works only collates, summarises and signposts research about the impact of music education. It would be good to have a larger study though I agree!


  9. Coming from an arts background, and believing in its developmental benefits, I am currently working on a broadly accessible attachment to an iPad computer, that will allow children access to experiencing and learning a wind instrument, through gamifying the process. If interested, on Facebook you can follow /estrument to see more as information is released in the coming months.


  10. My youngest child, was born at 24 weeks with Grade IV bleeding on the brain. While he was at the NICU, i put him classical music and nursery rhymes, for four months. Every day, 2-3 hours, alternating between that and reading, making different voices. He was discharged with a dubious Grade III. Within weeks he was reacting like a full term baby and the sounds arround him. Up to this day, he shows great memory for every song he hears. He commit them to memory within a day or two!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I am truly thankful for this info to be spread far and wide. It is something that those of us who innately have the ability to do as performers or teachers and that is teach the children for free as it will directly affect their brain capacity in other areas of study.
    Jymmi Sparkz – Pacific NW USA


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