A Harvard-based study led by Drs. Gottfried Schlaug and Ellen Winner and published in PLoS ONE has found that children who study a musical instrument for at least three years outperform children with no instrumental training on tests measuring verbal ability and visual pattern completion, skills not normally associated with music, along with tests of auditory discrimination and finger dexterity, which are traditionally skills honed by the study of a musical instrument.
41 eight- to eleven-year-olds who had studied either piano or a string instrument for a minimum of three years were compared to 18 children who had no instrumental training. Children in both groups spent 30-40 minutes per week in general music classes at school, but those in the instrumental group also received private lessons learning an instrument (averaging 45 minutes per week) and spent additional time practicing at home.
While it is no surprise that the young musicians scored significantly higher than those in the control group on two skills closely related to their music training (auditory discrimination and finger dexterity), the more surprising result was that they also scored higher in two skills that appear unrelated to music—verbal ability (as measured by a vocabulary IQ test) and visual pattern completion (as measured by the Raven's Progressive Matrices). The longer and more intensely the child had studied his or her instrument, the better he or she scored on these tests.
Studying an instrument thus seems to bring benefits in areas beyond those that are specifically targeted by music instruction, but that is not the end of the story. Although this research sheds light on the question of whether connections between music and other, unrelated skills do exist, more studies examining the causal relationships between instrumental music training, practice intensity, and cognitive enhancements are needed.
Citation: Forgeard M, Winner E, Norton A, Schlaug G (2008) Practicing a Musical Instrument in Childhood is Associated with Enhanced Verbal Ability and Nonverbal Reasoning. PLoS ONE 3(10): e3566. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003566
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Robot Tongue Identifies The Correct Beer Every Time
- Mystery Of Morgellons - Disease Or Delusion - Scientific Hypothesis Of Connection With Lyme Disease
- Editorial Independence Or Extortion? Frontiers Sacks 31 Editors
- Satellites Catch Birth Of Two Volcanic Islands In Yemen
- Brain-Computer Interface Makes Communication For Kids With Cerebral Palsy Easier
- New Project Aims to Establish a Human Colony on Mars
- Illegal Immigration To The U.S. Caused By Globalization?
- "Jesus H Christ, you have not written a Wikipedia article, you've written the book! I personally..."
- "Thanks, Hank, for taking the time to write your commentary on the issue involving a number of our..."
- "Just found a post by Jester with some more detail on timetables for the rest of the year: http..."
- "Quick q: what's the expected timeline for reaching 1 fb^-1? (I'd be happy with a pointer where..."
- "That also has not happened. The only lawsuit was when a farmer intentionally bought seed that was..."