Disclosure statement Assal Habibi does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit training and development of the baby this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. University of Southern California — Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.

The Conversation UK receives funding from Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence, as well as sixty five university members. How does music training in early childhood help the developing brain? As a researcher of neuroscience and a pianist myself, I understand that the mastering of this skill not only takes practice, but also requires complex coordination of many different brain regions. It takes coordinating both hands and communicating emotionally with other players and listeners to produce the magical effect. The combination of such demands is likely to influence brain structures and their functions. In our lab, we want to understand whether music training during childhood improves brain functions for processing sound more generally. These functions are important for the development of language and reading skills.

Music training and brain Over the past two decades, several investigators have reported differences in the brain and behavior of musicians compared to nonmusicians. Music training has been found to be related to better language and mathematical skills, higher IQ and overall greater academic achievement. Music training helps develop many other skills. However, the interpretation of the findings remains unclear. For example, the differences reported between adult musicians and nonmusicians might be due to long-term intensive training or might result primarily from inherent biological factors, such as genetic makeup.

Or, as with many aspects of the nature-versus-nurture debate, the differences may well result from contributions of both environmental and biological factors. One way to better understand the effects of music training on child development would be to study children before they start any music training and follow them systematically after, to see how their brain and behavior change in relation to their training. It would involve including a comparison group, as all children change with age. The ideal comparison group would be children who participate in equally socially interactive but nonmusical training, such as sports. Follow-up assessments after their training would reveal how each group changes over time.

Impact of music training on child development In 2012, our research group at the Brain and Creativity Institute at University of Southern California began a five-year study that did just that. We began to investigate the effects of group-based music training in 80 children between ages six and seven. We have continued to follow them, to explore the effects of such training on their brain, cognitive, social and emotional development. We started the study when one group of children were about to begin music training through the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles program. What is the impact of group-based music training?