Study: Early music training linked to brain’s executive function

Posted on: June 19, 2014

“A large body of research has noted a link between music education and higher test scores. But precisely why learning an instrument would have a positive impact on academic achievement has never been clear,” writes Tom Jacobs in Wednesday’s Pacific Standard (Santa Barbara, California). “A new study from Boston Children’s Hospital provides a possible answer. It reports musical training may promote the development and maintenance of a key set of mental skills. These executive functions … ‘allow for planned, controlled behavior,’ writes a research team led by Harvard University scholar Nadine Gaab.… In the online journal PLoS One, [Gaab and her colleagues] describe a study featuring 30 adults between the ages of 18 and 35 (15 working musicians, and 15 non-musicians), and 27 children between the ages of nine and 12 (15 of whom had at least two years of musical training). All performed a series of tasks to measure various facets of cognitive ability…. The key result: ‘Children and adults with extensive musical training show enhanced performance on a number of executive-function constructs compared to non-musicians,’ the researchers write, ‘especially for cognitive flexibility, working memory, and processing speed.’ … Gaab and her colleagues caution that more research will be needed to show causation.”

Posted June 19, 2014