Child musicians outperform others on cognitive tests

November 5th, 2008 - 3:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Nov 5 (IANS) Children who studied a musical instrument for at least three years beat their counterparts with no instrumental training, on various cognitive tests.These tests include auditory discrimination and finger dexterity (skills honed by the study of a musical instrument), measuring verbal ability and visual pattern completion (skills not normally associated with music).

Forty one eight to 11-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 (45 minutes a 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, 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 study was led by Gottfried Schlaug and Ellen Winner of Harvard University.

Furthermore, the longer and more intensely the child had studied his or her instrument, the better he or she scored on these tests, according to a Harvard release.

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.

The study has been published in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE.

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