Structured music lessons can significantly improve children's cognitive skills. Researchers said that this enhancement in cognitive abilities can also improve their academic performance.
Effect Of Music Education On Children
In the study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, Artur Jaschke, from VU University of Amsterdam, and colleagues followed 147 schoolchildren for more than two years.
The children were divided into groups. One group received music education, which involved a structured musical method. Another group received visual arts education. Children in the third group did not receive these supplementary lessons.
After 2.5 years, the researchers assessed the children's academic performance and their cognitive skills, which include inhibition, planning, and memory skills.
They found that those who received music lessons had significant improvements in cognitive skills compared with all other children who were part of the study.
"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," Jaschke said.
Visual arts classes also appeared to provide benefit to those who received them. The children in these classes showed significant improvements in visual and spatial short-term memory than their counterparts who did not receive any supplementary lessons.
The researchers said that their study suggests that the cognitive skills developed during music lessons can contribute to the children's cognitive ability in what seemed as completely unrelated subjects, and this leads to overall improvement in academic performance.
"The present results indicate a positive influence of long-term music education on cognitive abilities such as inhibition and planning," the researchers reported. "This study supports a far transfer effect from music education to academic achievement mediated by executive sub-functions."
The researchers said that their study was driven by the idea of the decline in music education worldwide. The opportunity to learn how to play an instrument is no longer seen as an important part of education but rather as a luxury.
"Despite indications that music has beneficial effects on cognition, music is disappearing from general education curricula," Jaschke said.
Other Benefits Of Music
The findings support a growing number of scientific studies that show the mental and physical benefits of music.
A 2014 study showed that music therapy may ease depression and even improve the self-esteem of children and teens with behavioral problems. Babies as young as 9-months-old have also been shown to benefit from listening to music. In a 2016 study, researchers found that exposure to music sharpened babies' language skills.