By Elizabeth Packer
When my sister was in elementary school, she had a close friend who studied the violin under the Suzuki Method. Developed by the Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki, it centers on the concept of beginning musical training when the child is no older than five years old and thus encouraging these young musicians to develop such personality aspects as self-esteem. But does the Suzuki Method do more than character build?
In a recent article published on BBC, “Music Training Boosts the Brain,” an answer to this question is unearthed. Citing the work of a study undertaken by Dr. Takako Fujioka at McMaster University in Canada, the article asserts that training in classical music from a very young age does indeed do more than build character. It really does alter the brains of young children.
Within the study, Fujioka and his colleagues worked with a group of four to six year olds, half of whom had received musical training for a year. They were exposed to a violin tone and “noise-burst stimulus” in four repeated intervals, and then had their neural responses recorded through the use of an imaging technique which measures the magnetic fields produced by electrical activity in the brain known as magnetoencephalography (MEG). Through the MEG scans, it was discovered that the musically trained children showed higher peaks in brain activity in the left hemisphere in response to the violin than the untrained group. The musically trained group also demonstrated an increased ability to discriminate between the two different sounds they were presented with: they responded more quickly to the sound of the violin when it was played than their nonmusical peers.
Based on their study, Fujioka and his colleagues reached a conclusion that musical training has an impact on the wiring of the brain in areas related to memory and attention. This matches up nicely with earlier studies showing that music students demonstrate better memory skills, even for non-music material, than their non-musical peers. They have thus demonstrated that there is more to the Suzuki Method—and instrumental training at a young age in general—than character building and getting children used to performing: it increases memory abilities by positively influencing brain wiring.
Fujioka, T., Ross, B., Kakigi, R., Pantev, C., and Trainor, L. J. (2006). One Year of Musical Training Affects Development of Auditory Cortical-Evoked Fields in Young Children. Brain, 129, 2593-2608.
Oxford University Press (2006, September 20). First Evidence That Musical Training Affects Brain Development In Young Children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 21, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2006/09/060920093024.htm