A Dutch research team has proven that music lessons significantly improve the cognitive abilities of children, such as memory, concentration and organization.
What if arts education was the key to children’s success in school? This is in any case the observation made by a team of researchers from the Free University of Amsterdam. They analyzed the effects of music classes or visual art classes on the cognitive abilities of children. The results of this study appeared in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.
The researchers worked with 147 children from several Dutch primary schools. They were aged on average 6.4 years old. The young schoolchildren attended either music lessons or visual arts classes during the week. A group of other children did not have any art classes. After two and a half years, the researchers analyzed children’s academic performance, as well as certain cognitive skills such as concentration, organization, or memory.
The researchers found that the children who participated in the visual art classes had their visual and spatial memory greatly improved. But, the ones who took the music classes had the most beneficial effects. They gained better reasoning based on verbal intelligence, organization, concentration and overall academic performance. The researchers hope that this work will contribute to the development of art classes in schools.
It’s not the first that music was proven to have some beneficial effects on children’s cognitive development. In 2016, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington — published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America — found that music would facilitate speech learning in babies.
Researchers from the Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) at the University of Washington back then compared the learning level of 20 nine-month-old children by teaching to reproduce musical rhythms by tapping on a drum to that of 19 other children of the same age playing with toys like cars or cubes. To measure the effects of musical apprenticeship, these small participants followed for one month twelve fifteen-minute sessions with their parents who helped them in their games.
At the end of the study, the researchers observed that children who learned with music developed stronger brain reactions. They were able to better detect changes in sounds and rhythms than other children.
“Our study is the first one conducted with very young children that suggests that being exposed to early musical rhythms can also improve the ability to detect rhythms in the language and also to anticipate them,” then said Christina Zhao, a Researcher at the Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) at the University. “To acquire the ability to speak, they must be able to recognize the tones and the rhythms and also to anticipate them”, she explained, noting that this capacity of sound perception “is an important cognitive aptitude”, and that “the fact of improving it early in life seems to have lasting effects on learning.”