Musical training in childhood has lasting brain benefits, findings of a new study claim. According to experts just a few years of musical training in childhood could improve the brain response to speech sound in adulthood.

An individual’s brain might be reaping the benefits of that early instruction even if they had abandoned playing the instrument in decades.

Study researcher Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, said it “suggests the importance of music education for children today and for healthy ageing decades from now. The fact that musical training in childhood affected the timing of the response to speech in older adults in our study is especially telling because neural timing is the first to go in the ageing adult.”

Study of 44 healthy adults
The focus of the study was to examine the impact of musical activity during childhood on brain’s response to sound in adulthood. They recruited 44 healthy adults aged between 55 and 76 to participate in an experiment.

None of the volunteers had played a musical instrument in 40 years. As a part of the study, experts measured the subjects’ electrical signals from the auditory brainstem (part of the brain that processes sound) as they listened to different sounds of synthesized speech syllables.

Revelations of the study
It was observed that the neural response to sound of participants with at least 4 to 14 years of music training in childhood was a fraction faster than that of their peers with no musical instruction as kids.

Prof Michael Kilgard, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, who was not part of the study stated, “Being a millisecond faster may not seem like much, but the brain is very sensitive to timing and a millisecond compounded over millions of neurons can make a real difference in the lives of older adults.”

Details of these findings are published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

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