Researchers from UNCG and the FPG Child Development Institute at UNC Chapel Hill are starting a novel study of the effects of musical instrument instruction on young children’s development.
The study will examine whether violin instruction using the Suzuki Method improves children’s early thinking skills through changes in brain activity. The lead investigators are Dr. Susan Calkins, professor of human development and family studies at UNCG, and Dr. Michael Willoughby, research scientist at the FPG Child Development Institute.
Running until the end of this academic year, the study will be the first of its kind to test the idea that experiences such as musical instrument instruction contribute specifically to brain development in preschool-aged children. “Previous research has focused on the effects of music exposure,” Calkins said. “We believe it may be musical instruction that enhances cognitive development through brain changes.”
The process of learning a musical instrument can be thought of as a complicated, multi-step problem that requires children to focus their attention on multiple tasks at once, store steps in working memory and inhibit the urge to play familiar patterns as they learn new ones. Calkins and Willoughby theorize that this kind of cognitive experience contributes to the learning of new behavioral skills and supports new neural pathways that support such skills.
Calkins and Willoughby will enroll 100 4-year-olds in the study, referred to as iMod (Impact of Music on Development). Fifty of the participating children will be randomly assigned to receive free music instruction through the Music Academy of North Carolina, which is located in Greensboro, while another 50 will be assigned to a parent-led activity group.
Both groups of children will be asked to come to UNCG for electroencephalography (EEG) evaluations at the start and end of the study, and will be reimbursed $50 at each visit for their participation. Greensboro-area families interested in enrolling children in the study can contact the researchers at iMod@uncg.edu or (336) 256-8546.
The research is funded by a $125,000 grant from the National Association of Music Merchants and conducted with the support of the Music Academy of North Carolina in Greensboro and Artley Violins in Gibsonville.
Source: UNCG University News, NC