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New research published in Frontiers in Neuroscience shows just how big of an impact music can have on a child’s development, wellbeing, and academic success. According to this study, “Longitudinal Analysis of Music Education on Executive Functions in Primary School Children,” children who take music lessons—whether it be lessons in piano, guitar, trumpet, drums, or any other instrument—benefit from enhanced cognitive abilities, which lead to greater academic achievement.

More specifically, music lessons appear to improve children’s short term memory, language-based reasoning, planning skills, and inhibition. These improvements then lead to improved academic performance. In addition, this research—which is the first of its kind—found that visual arts lessons were also beneficial in that they improve children’s visual and spatial memory. Together, these findings build a strong case for inclusion of the arts in school curriculum amidst widespread removal of such programs.

Dr. Artur Jaschke of VU University of Amsterdam says that this is exactly why the team carried out this important study: “Despite indications that music has beneficial effects on cognition, music is disappearing from general education curricula. This inspired us to initiate a long-term study on the possible effects of music education on cognitive skills that may underlie academic achievement.”

Determined to prove the importance of music education, the researchers recruited 147 students from several Dutch schools and used a musical method developed by the Ministry of Research and Education in the Netherlands as well as an expert center for arts education to conduct their research. Each school followed the regular school curriculum, some of which included music or visual arts classes where students took both theoretical and practical lessons and others that did not offer such lessons.

After 2.5 years, the researchers evaluated each child’s academic performance and cognitive abilities (such as those mentioned previously) and compared the two groups. Upon doing so, they discovered that those who participated in music lessons experienced significant improvement in their cognitive abilities compared to the kids who did not receive music lessons. They also found that those who took visual art classes benefitted from an improved visual and spatial short-term memory.

In consideration of these important findings, Dr. Jaschke says music and art classes should be prioritized and implemented in all schools. “Both music and arts classes are supposed to be applied throughout all Dutch primary schools by the year 2020,” he explains. “But considering our results, we hope that this study will support political developments to reintegrate music and arts education into schools around the world.”

Sources:
Frontiers (2018, March 26). Music Lessons Improve Children’s Cognitive Skills and Academic Performance. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved March 26, 2018 from http://neurosciencenews.com/music-cognition-academics-8689/

Jaschke, A. C., Honing, H. & Scherder, E. (2018, February 28). Longitudinal Analysis of Music Education on Executive Functions in Primary School Children. Frontiers in Neuroscience. Retrieved March 27, 2018 from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2018.00103/full

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