Musical training and executive functioning

Professor Nadine Gaab, associate professor of paediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital Boston and the Harvard Medical School, and a member of the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has shown that people who play a musical instrument regularly have higher executive function (EF) skills than non-musicians. EF skills are cognitive processes that include solving problems, setting goals, and thinking flexibly.

In a study published in 2014, Gaab and her research team had examined 30 adults between 18 and 35, and 27 children between 9 and 12. Half the adult participants and 15 of the children were regarded as ‘musical’ – the adults were either seeking or had obtained a performance degree and practiced at least eight hours a week, and the children had been taking private instrumental lessons for an average of 5.2 years – while the non-musicians had no musical training outside of the requirements of the general music curriculum in school.

The researchers examined the participants as they performed various tasks measuring EF skills. Overall, the musical participants performed better on several, although not all, of the executive function tests. Both adult and children musicians exhibited higher cognitive flexibility than non-musicians. The adult musicians showed a more proficient working memory, and the child musicians exhibited faster processing speed, than their non-musician peers.

SOURCES:

Plosone.org: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4061064/pdf/pone.0099868.pdf Harvard Graduate School of Education: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/16/03/music-lessons

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING
TARGET GROUP: CHILDREN & ADULTS
AGE: 9-12 YEARS & 18-35 YEARS
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 57 (27 CHILDREN & 30 ADULTS)
PERIOD OF STUDY: UNKNOWN
DATE: 2014
PLACE: USA
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