Brain and music

Music lessons improve children’s cognitive skills and academic performance

The first large-scale, longitudinal study of its type in the Netherlands has found that structured music lessons significantly enhance children’s cognitive abilities – particularly around inhibition, planning and verbal intelligence and therefore their academic achievement. The study involved 147 in primary schools over two-and-a-half years.

“Despite indications that music has beneficial effects on cognition, music is disappearing from general education curricula,” says Dr Artur Jaschke, from VU University of Amsterdam, who led the study with Dr Henkjan Honing and Dr Erik Scherder. “This inspired us to initiate a long-term study on the possible effects of music education on cognitive skills that may underlie academic achievement.”

The goal was to examine whether structured music lessons can affect executive sub-functions that may underlie academic achievement.  They used a structured musical method developed by the Ministry of Research and Education in the Netherlands together with an expert centre for arts education. Participants were grouped into: two music intervention groups, one active visual arts group, and a no arts control group. Neuropsychological tests assessed verbal intelligence and executive functions and a national pupil monitor provided data on academic performance.

At the end of the study, the children’s academic performance was assessed, as well as various cognitive skills . The researchers found that children who received music lessons had significant cognitive improvements compared to all other children in the study. The test scores on inhibition, planning and verbal intelligence show that these children perform better on these tasks when compared with controls, and these measures increased significantly in the music groups over time.

The researchers hope their work will contribute to highlighting the importance of the music and arts in human culture and cognitive development. “Both music and arts classes are supposed to be applied throughout all Dutch primary schools by the year 2020,” says Dr Jaschke. “But considering our results, we hope that this study will support political developments to reintegrate music and arts education into schools around the world.”

Brain image (edited) from Pixabay, reproduced under Creative Commons CC0.

SOURCES:
Frontiers: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00103/full
Science Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180326140244.htm
Medical Daily: https://www.medicaldaily.com/taking-music-lessons-positively-impacts-childrens-academic-performance-423265

DETAILS:

BENEFIT: IMPROVED COGNITIVE SKILLS AND ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE
TARGET GROUP: CHILDREN
AGE: 6-7 YEARS-OLD
MUSIC TYPE: GENERAL
TYPE OF STUDY: ACADEMIC RESEARCH
NOs INVOLVED: 147
PERIOD OF STUDY: 2.5 YEARS
DATE: 2018
PLACE: NETHERLANDS

5 comments

  1. Thank you very mach for your link. I have a dougther and she is 6 yers old and she is not tolking yet. Probably music kan help her. Thank you a lot!❤

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  2. I thought it was really interesting that children who took music lessons performed on a higher level when tested on verbal intelligence. Do you think learning music could help one learn a foreign language? My friend has been having such a hard time learning Spanish, but is very adept at choir, so I’m curious to know.

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    1. Thanks for commenting Bethany. That’s an interesting take on the music education / language skills debate! The research has been all around children, with some work around teenagers as their brains go through a ‘plastic’ phase, but I’ve not heard of any research about adults and improved language skills – although music does help people memorise things (eg see here https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationadvice/10435498/Music-a-gift-for-language-learners.html) so I’d say if your friend could combine both that would help!

      Like

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