Music practice helps brain development

March 17, 2013 at 5:27 PM

MONTREAL, March 17 (UPI) -- Musical training before the age of 7 has a significant effect on the parts of the brain involved with planning and motor abilities, Canadian researchers say.

Virginia Penhune of Concordia University and her students Ph.D. candidates Christopher J. Steele and Jennifer A. Bailey, in collaboration with Robert J. Zatorre of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University tested 36 adult musicians on a movement task, and scanned their brains.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, found there was strong evidence the years between ages 6-8 were a "sensitive period" when musical training interacts with normal brain development to produce long-lasting changes in motor abilities and brain structure.

"Learning to play an instrument requires coordination between hands and with visual or auditory stimuli," Penhune said in a statement."Practicing an instrument before age 7 likely boosts the normal maturation of connections between motor and sensory regions of the brain, creating a framework upon which ongoing training can build."

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