There has been much research about the positive effects of musical training on the brains of adults. Scans have identified differences in brain structures between musicians and non-musicians, including neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to change and adapt, creating new neural connections in response to life experiences. However, far less is known about what might exist in the brain a lot earlier, prior to any formal training.
Now a new study is the first to uncover neurobiological predispositions for musical talent — in infancy.
“There are pathways in the brain that are known to be really important for musical training that have been suggested to develop over time in response to musical training,” explains Jennifer Zuk, a HGSE graduate and co-author of the new paper published in Developmental Science, “and so, it is interesting that we're actually seeing these specialized pathways that are evident even before the formal onset of musical training.”
- Early aspects of brain structure in babies can set the stage for later success with music.
- The authors, who conducted their study at the Gaab Lab at Harvard, found structural networks in infants’ brains, linked to some of the differences that were previously only observed in the brains of musically trained adults or much older children.
- Both nature (a predisposition for music) and nurture (musical training) are believed to “establish a neural foundation for musicality,” according to the report. The researchers write that they observed structures in the infant brain that “may serve as a scaffold upon which ongoing musical experience can build.”