Can Mirror Neurons Help Children Learn Music?

Modeling is such a powerful tool in early childhood learning – including music education.  Have you noticed children quickly like to imitate what they see? What’s at work in the brain when this happens?

In the early 1990s, neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti, MD and his colleagues, from the University of Parma, first discovered mirror neurons in monkeys. They observed how watching an action and performing an action activate the same part of the brain. Their research transitioned into the study of human behavior even tracing a lack of mirror neurons to autism.  Mirror neuron activity overlaps regions in the brain for language, motor and social development.

Modeling in Music Education

In our music classes we always stress the importance of modeling. The concept of mirror neurons is definitely at work in the Kids’ MusicRound™ classroom.  I have often shared, “The success of our program depends on the adults’ participation. Children watch and then catch the joy of music! Mirror neurons are naturally firing when everyone actively participates.

I came face-to-face with the power of modeling with my then toddler son. I was observing a class and brought him along. We were currently attending a parent-child music class so he knew the routine. It was time to choose egg shakers and he did not. I asked him why, and he responded, “Because you aren’t mommy.” Aha! His mirror neurons were working on schedule based on his observation of my behavior. I communicated something very powerful just by my actions or lack of.

Jill Stamm, Ph. D, the author of Boosting Brain Power, writes on how the dual action of mirror neurons in the brain can explain “how someone can learn by just watching a teacher, a parent, or another child do an activity. We imitate what we see. Our mirror neurons have shortened our learning curve.”

Keep singing and dancing in class, at home and in the car with your baby, toddler and preschooler. When your child sees you making joyful music his mirror neurons turn on and he will want to share in the musical fun. With your positive modeling, you are giving your child a wonderful musical gift while at the same time developing his language and motor skills and social connections. So activate those mirror neurons today!

For more information on mirror neurons and their impact on a child’s development visit:

Barbara Lysenko
Kids’ MusicRound Co-Founder