It has long been known that learning to read and play music at any age is beneficial to brain function, but new studies have shown that getting started earlier can make an exponential difference in the development of motor skills that does not occur in non-musicians or musicians who started later in life.
A study was run through Concordia University by a team of neuropsychologists. They used a group of thirty-six musicians all with at least sixteen years of experience playing musical instruments. Half of the participants had begun their training from the ages of three to seven years old and the other half between the ages of eight and eighteen. Each group, as well as a control group of non-musicians was given a series of tests on motor skills as well having their brains scanned.
Those who started their training at younger age performed exceedingly better during a test that involved clicking a mouse in response to a series of dashes on screen in a fashion similar to Morse code. Although the skills used in this test are also used in music that task itself is not, which is how we know that the benefits of playing music are useful far beyond the music itself.
Connections between the left and right brain reflect its ability to work. The more connections, the more brain activity, which in turn leads to better brain functioning. We can physically see these connections on an MRI scan of our brains. They appear on the scan as extra tissue or “white matter”. When each group of participants brains were scanned the group of early starters had considerably more “white matter” located in the corpus callosum part of the brain than those who started music later and the group of non-musicians.
This does not mean that earlier trained musicians are better musicians, just that beginning your child’s training earlier has a massive effect on their ability learn and over all brain power. It is also important to keep in mind that music is a great way to stretch your brain muscles at any age!