The effects of early music training on brain activity

Researchers at the University of Southern California have studied the effects of music training on brain activity. They were investigating the effects of musical training on the ability to detect deviations of rhythm in unfamiliar melodies.

Dr Assal Habibi, Vinthia Wirantana and Arnold Starr initially recorded the responses of 21 musicians and 21 nonmusicians to discrepancies of pitch between pairs of unfamiliar melodies. Musicians detected pitch deviations significantly better than nonmusicians, especially with the right but not the left ear, suggesting that left-sided brain activity differentiated musicians from nonmusicians. The right ear stimulation among musicians was positively linked to early music training.

Australian music education researcher Anita Collins comments on the research on her Bigger, Better Brains Facebook page:

Here is a really unexpected question that has arisen as I have talked to researchers at BCI. Which comes first – melody or rhythm? Dr Assal Habibi has found in both a study with adults and a longitudinal study starting with 6 year olds that participants developed the ability to differentiate melodies better than rhythms in the first two years of their learning, and they continued in the next two years to still be better at spotting changes in melodies rather than rhythms. (http://mp.ucpress.edu/content/3/5/463)

Now these children were learning stringed instruments and working in orchestras and it got me thinking about the differences in pedagogy between orchestral learning and band learning. In orchestras it is all about the melody while rhythm and pulse are quite fluid. In bands rhythm is king and queen and routinely bands integrate rhythm activities in their warm ups, vocalise rhythms and work very hard to internalise rhythm and pulse. So what would we see if we compared a group of orchestral and band students when it comes to their melodic and rhythm processing?

SOURCES:
University of California Press: http://mp.ucpress.edu/content/3/5/463
Bigger Better Brains: https://en-gb.facebook.com/BiggerBetterBrainsProject/
National Center for Biotechnology Information: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4264841/

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
TARGET GROUP: ADULTS
AGE: 20-22-YEARS-OLD
MUSIC TYPE: MUSICAL TESTS
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 42 (40 IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS)
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
DATE: 2013
PLACE: USA

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