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Kids who learn an instrument have improved cognitive skills

A new study from Dutch scientists has revealed that learning how to play an instrument enhances cognitive abilities in children and improves academic performance. Planning and inhibition, vocabulary, and memory were all found to be boosted by structured music lessons.

“Despite indications that music has beneficial effects on cognition, music is disappearing from general education curricula,” said lead author Dr. Artur Jaschke from VU University of Amsterdam.

“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 study was focused on 147 primary school children with an average age of six, who were divided into four groups. The first group received music lessons at school, the second group received private lessons, a third group received only art lessons, and the final group received no music or art lessons.

After two and a half years, cognitive skills and academic performance were evaluated.Regardless of their skill level or the type of lessons taken, children who played music demonstrated the most brain improvement.

“Children who received music lessons showed improved language-based reasoning and the ability to plan, organize and complete tasks, as well as improved academic achievement,” said Dr. Jaschke.

“This suggests that the cognitive skills developed during music lessons can influence children’s cognitive abilities in completely unrelated subjects, leading to overall improved academic performance.”

In addition, children who took visual arts classes showed significant improvements in visual and spatial short-term memory compared to students who did not take art classes.

Dr. Jaschke said: “Even though not everybody is a professional musician in the beginning, practicing an instrument and the discipline it takes can increase brain function.”

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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